Helping Hands

Helping Hands: School children practice meaning of ‘home’

December 11, 2013 


    What: Centre County United Way Festival of Trees

    When: 4-9 p.m. Dec. 13; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Dec. 14; and noon-4 p.m. Dec. 15

    Where: Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology, 541 N. Harrison Road, Pleasant Gap


It is often said that home is where the heart is. To fully understand this saying, one need not look any further than into the heart of a child.

Recently, students in Lori McGarry’s Small School Gathering at Park Forest Elementary School made holiday decorations for the Centre County Affordable Housing Coalition. Building on the theme, “Home is Where the Heart Is,” students shared what home means to them by completing the sentence, “Home is where ...”

The children’s answers offered a reminder of the fundamental importance of a safe and happy home. The ornaments included such phrases as, “Home is where my family lives,” “Home is where I feel important,” “Home is where my mom is” and “Home is where I feel safe.” These answers reinforce the idea that housing is an issue affecting everyone in our community.

McGarry’s students, in kindergarten through fifth grade, are no strangers to the issue of homes and homelessness. Since 2011, Mrs. McGarry’s Small School Gathering — which meets once a month — has taken on projects in service to those who do not have housing. After reading the book, “Sam and the Lucky Money”, a story about a boy who finds a way to apply his limited resources to make a difference in his community, the students brainstormed ways to help the residents of the Centre House homeless shelter.

Over the years, the children have made seasonal decorations, held a food drive and made healthy snacks for the residents of Centre House. They’ve learned that they can make a difference in a person’s life — that they have much to give and will receive much in return.

In November, I visited McGarry’s students again, this time as a representative of the Centre County Affordable Housing Coalition. The students learned that housing crises are not just limited to homelessness. We discussed the importance of a habitat that is safe, secure, loving and sustainable — to all living creatures. Finally, the children made decorations for the Affordable Housing Coalition’s Christmas tree that will be on display at the United Way Festival of Trees. The decorations included the kids’ rendition of “Home is where the heart is.”

The Centre County Affordable Housing Coalition is dedicated to the idea that home is where everyone belongs. We hope that you share this belief. And we hope you know that you can make a difference too.

Susanna Paul is the development and community relations coordinator at Housing Transitions Inc. and a member of the Centre County Affordable Housing Coalition.

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