Infusing compassion one donation at a time

A chance encounter on a Charlotte street led Luci Lopez-Carroll to helping the homeless. She and her mother were walking to their car after Luci's theater rehearsal when a homeless man stopped them to ask for money or food. They had none to give. A few days later, Luci created a presentation for a Giving Kindness club she wanted to start at Blythe Elementary, where she is a fifth-grader.

"So many people go through life without a home. I wanted to help them," she said. "I knew I couldn't do it alone so I talked to my principal about my idea and then showed it to my friends."

Luci's presentation included facts and figures about homelessness and ways to help. Her teacher, Jackie Bourke, said that Luci and her initiative exemplifies what the school's International Baccalaureate (IB) program is about — being a risk-taker. To support Luci and expand on a teachable moment, Bourke showed her students a video about a teenager from Tampa, Florida, who had created a national foundation to aid homeless children.

"When Luci showed us her slides, it made me want to be a part of the solution," said fifth-grader Mya Brown. "I knew it wouldn't be easy to collect items but it would be worth it."

Forming the club was challenging, especially in the planning stages. Students had to decide and agree on the organization to receive their donations, collect the items and deliver them.

"At one point, the group almost fell apart. I had to make sure people felt included in the process. That was hard to manage," said Luci. "My mom gave me advice and it worked. We started coming together as a team."​

givingkindness_insidepic.jpgRyan Revak, the school's IB coordinator and academic facilitator, assisted the students in narrowing their choices down to one organization — the Salvation Army Center of Hope, a shelter for women and children. The students contacted the shelter to find what it needed, then organized a clothing and toy drive. They created posters, prepared school announcements and handed out fliers in each classroom.

"It took a little time to pick up but when it did, we ended up collecting a lot more than we thought we would," said club member Jazmyne Jackson. "It was pretty amazing."

After two months, Luci's idea had become a reality. The collection boxes were overflowing with donations from students and teachers.

"On the final day of collection, I couldn't stop smiling," said Luci. "I know people need material things to survive but mentally they need hope. That's what I want to give them. If you do one good thing, it will spread. It has at our school. I plan to keep it going."