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Posted: September 2, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Middle school students give aid to the homeless

Submitted photos/

Helping the needy: The girls in the GEMS club raised $1,000 for the Garden of Gethsemane homeless shelter.

Veterans Memorial Middle School students typically climb out of a warm bed in the morning, have plenty of clothes to pick from, have hot meals to eat and come from a loving home. But a group of girls at the Covington school are working to help those who don’t have a bed of their own, who typically wear second hand clothes, aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from, and don’t have a home to call their own.

The girls club, called GEMS, or Girls Engaged in Meaningful Service raised funds for the Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter. Over the course of four weeks, the girls in grades six through eight sold lollypops to fellow schoolmates and raised $1,000.00 for this meaningful cause. There are nearly 60 girls in the club that take on various community oriented projects.

One of the group’s two sponsors, Whitney Jackson, said, "the girls try to take on one community service project every month."

On Aug. 31, the girls turned over the fruits of their labor to Pastor Clara Lett, the director and founder of the shelter, and to Dr. Robin Hoffman, president of DeKalb Technical College. A donation of $250 will go for school supplies for children in the shelter. The other $750 will go to DeKalb Tech’s Economic Development Department for training residents of the shelter. The hope is that by training these residents, they will be able to get back into the work world and begin a new, productive life.

At a ceremony Monday morning in the school gymnasium, Dr. Hoffman thanked the girls for their efforts.

"You have done something very important to help those less fortunate, and for that we are very grateful," Hoffman said.

The school organization has been involved in many community projects. Veterans’ Principal James Peek said school faculty tries to help students become involved in community service.

The Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter was established in 2001 by Pastor Lett to help people who are going through a difficult period of life.

"I’m used in this area because I understand what people are going through with evictions and without utilities. We can better serve someone when we’ve gone through that," said Lett. "In the early 80s I encountered what these people are going through now, so I’ve been there."

The shelter is operated under the umbrella of the Rainbow Community Center in Covington. Recently a family of five walked through the door seeking shelter. Typically Pastor Lett said she sees a flow of people needing refuge once a month after judges sign off on eviction notices. They provide help for about 60 people per night. Many of them are school-age children in second through fifth grades. That’s why part of the funds will go to school supplies. The rest will be used by DeKalb Tech to help train parents in skills that will help them find a job. Many residents need to obtain their GED.

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