The Chick-fil-A Leaders from Alcovy High School (AHS) held a sleep out for homelessness Jan. 21. The group raised more than $2,500 for the Rainbow Shelter of Covington.
The Covington News had the opportunity to speak with four of the leaders of the fundraiser, AHS seniors Antoine Manning and Danielle Crowe, and juniors Elizabeth Baker and Walker Edmondson, along with their faculty advisor Chris Williams at the school Friday about their involvement in raising money for the shelter. Manning, Crowe, Baker and Edmondson are also diplomats in AHS’s Positive Behavioral Interventions & Support program.
Twenty-five students, joined by three faculty members braved some of the worst weather in recent memory to raise money for the shelter. As they “slept out” under the school’s awning from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. using sleeping bags and air mattresses, the significance of the weather was not lost on the students.
“Ms. Peck, who was our administrator, said that it was actually the perfect day to do it. Because it was so windy and rainy and cold, we got more of the experience,” Baker said. “There are people who experience that every day. We had access to food and access to the bathroom, but there are people that don’t have that.”
Earlier in the school year, the students packed meals for the homeless. According to Williams, their interest in the problem of homelessness came when thy realized that the meals they were packing were going to be eaten.
“They had to work together, pull out the rice and the lentils and the beans and pack it together and then we shipped it to the food pantry here in Covington,” Williams said.
The students said other student organizations at AHS, such as the National Honor Society also support the food pantry.
The leaders talked about how their involvement in helping the homeless has inspired them to continue to help people as they go forward in their lives and careers after high school.
“It affected me a lot. People are experiencing the harsh weather conditions. People are looking for places to sleep, places to use the restroom, anything to eat to survive on,” Aspiring painter Manning said. “I know that I’m going to be involved with things to help the homeless.”
Manning also said that he wants to do anything that he can to change the community and positively impact people around it.
“When I think about doing service, it’s something that I want to do because I want to help people,” Crowe said, “When you’re looked at as someone who cares about people, that’s a good feeling.
“The sleep out helped me face reality. This is real. This stuff actually happens. It had a huge impact.”
Danielle wants to be of service in another way as well. She plans to work in the criminal justice field as a crime scene investigator after college.
Edmondson continued the conversation.
“I think absolutely that starting at a younger age to help the community and help others and build stronger bonds with your peers will make you grow up to do the same thing. You create bonds in the community with people who know you want to help. In every way, it warms your heart to help others when you can help,” he said.
Edmondson has not mapped out any post high school plans yet.
Future marine biologist Baker also plans combine her career with service to others.
“Whenever someone helps you, it feels like you’re not alone. Like someone out there is thinking about you. I feel like that’s what we did with the sleep out and that’s what we do every time we donate our time to the community,” she said. “It’s going to be something I do the rest of my life, to give back, because I’ve been given to.”
Students not involved in the PBIS program were also involved in the sleep out. The leaders said those students were equally impacted by the experience.
“Just because they’re not in the club does not mean that they don’t want to help and spread positivity,” Crowe said, “There were a couple of people who came who were not diplomats and they wanted to help just as much as we wanted to help.”
“A lot of people want to give. They just don’t have programs to give themselves to. That’s what PBIS is for, to bring the school together, to unify it,” Edmondson said.
Ms. Williams said that the money was raised through a GoFundMe account, with the students sharing the GoFundMe link through social media. The link stayed open through Monday. The students raised $2,530 for their efforts. $250 in cash donations was used to purchase cleaning supplies for the shelter, the rest will be donated in a check presentation. Ms. Williams also said that Alcovy has challenged Newton County’s other two high schools, Newton and Eastside to top their amount.
According to statistics provided by Williams, there are 750,000 Georgians who are homeless each year. More than half of those are children.
The student leaders are planning another sleep out for the spring. The April 15 event will support homelessness and suicide prevention. Stay tuned to The Covington News for further details.