Green Doors Blog > 5th Grade Scientists, Advocates, Philanthropists

5th Grade Scientists, Advocates, Philanthropists

I can only imagine the Green Doors staff preparing for their November 19, 2009, “Footing the Bill” advocacy day and film screening. The effort and community support they garnered to launch the 2nd web video in their Tex S. Taxpayer educational campaign was huge and I wanted to do something to participate.

I had planned to wear my Green Doors t-shirt that day as a show of support, so I did. I made 28 peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches, and I got together my large cooler of boxed fruit drinks. I prepared my daughter, packed the car, and we were off to school.  November 19th was the day the 5th grade science class at Summitt Elementary School was taking a field trip to Balcones Park in Northwest Austin. And I was a volunteer chaperone.

I was surprised at how well advocacy just works. Since I chaperoned, I spent much of the day holding my daughter’s hand.  But the children were all curious about my t-shirt, tugging on it as we organized. I explained to them that I was wearing the shirt to support Green Doors, and to support people struggling with homelessness. I explained that anyone can be homeless and that it is up to people with safe homes to take small actions to help people who don’t have homes.

My daughter and I explained:  “For example, we give out granola bars to panhandlers.  It’s simple, rather than giving out money to people struggling with homelessness on Austin’s street corners, we give out Strawberry Nutri-Grain bars. We think it is a wholesome snack that leaves us feeling both happy that we gave something healthy to someone less fortunate and secure in knowing that the gift can only be used as a snack. You can try this too.”

We made it to Balcones Park, and coincidentally during National Homeless Awareness Week, on the day Green Doors, for which I serve as Vice President, hosted their 2nd web video launch, we came across a “hobo camp” in the wooded area deep inside the park. This presented my daughter’s teacher and me with another opportunity to discuss homelessness. The teacher called 311 and asked for assistance for the folks living there. I thought it was a good idea and a good way for the kids to learn about city resources and programs that can help homeless people. The people struggling with homelessness living at Balcones Park on the day my daughter’s 5th grade science class took their field trip, weren’t scary or threatening at all which gave the kids further perspective.  Generally, we react with fear or guilt when we approach street corners in which people struggling with homelessness are holding signs. With the guidance of the teacher and me, seeing the “hobo camp” in a context that was completely unrelated helped the kids see a major human problem without automatically making negative assumptions. It helped them think about and learn about possible circumstances that lead people to become homeless.

In Social Studies, my daughter and her classmates are learning about philanthropy and citizenship. In April, the class will undergo a project that has a larger community impact. They choose every aspect of the project themselves. At Balcones Park, I planted a seed in their minds that perhaps a homelessness-based project might help them learn more about people struggling with homelessness, some in camps less than a mile from their elementary school.

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Lee Chapman

Lee Chapman joined the board in February 2008. She has a broad background in corporate communications, branding, and web design across the nonprofit, government, and private sectors. Currently, she is Web Marketing Manager for National Instruments responsible for managing the design, development, and branding of the corporate website. Prior to joining National Instruments, Lee was a public information specialist with the Texas Workforce Commission writing legislative reports for the multiple contracts that the agency oversees between federal agencies and state/local workforce boards. She also worked for several years as the Communications Director for the YMCA of Austin, forging community partnerships and furthering the mission of the organization to build strong kids, strong families, and strong communities. Lee has a passion for increasing the awareness of and need for housing for the homeless in the Austin community.

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