Wentzville Middle School students led by Truesdale Mayor Jerry Cannon collected more than 6,000 pounds of donated clothing, coats and toiletries to help homeless veterans in the St. Louis, MO, region.
A group of 32 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students led by Truesdale Mayor Jerry Cannon collected more than 6,000 pounds of clothing and toiletry donations for homeless veterans.
Cannon also serves as a teacher and student council sponsor at Wentzville Middle School, and his students distributed what they collected Dec. 1 at the Midtown Service and Treatment Center of the Salvation Army in St. Louis.
It was an eye-opening experience for the kids.
“We had two girls and myself help a lady get her things to the car she had just gotten, and the girls were all smiling and happy that they were helping,” Cannon said. “Then they got to the lady’s car and it had a smashed-in front windshield. It had no back windshield. It had a piece of cardboard. We put her things in her car and the girls turned to me and said ‘Mr. Cannon,’ and I said ‘yes, that’s her home.”
Cannon said he could tell in that instance those students had been changed.
“It hit them that what we’re doing is really important and they’re smiling and they know what they’re doing is helping these people,” he said.
A steady stream of people in need came through the donation site, with ultimately close to 500 benefiting from the students’ work.
As a person came in, two students would volunteer to help walk them through the room they had filled with men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, coats, shoes and socks, and a variety of personal and hygiene items.
“It’s kind of sad seeing some of them are folding their clothes and some of them are missing a shoe,” seventh grader Oliva Agia said. This was the second year that Olivia had helped collect and distribute the donations. “Once we give them stuff, they end up really happy and it’s nice.”
It’s nice for those who work every day to help the less fortunate in the St. Louis region.
“Every year it is a blessing to receive them,” Executive Director Kimberly Beck said. “Every year we look forward to this. We start talking about Jerry and the kids coming back and what a blessing it is.”
Beck’s work with the Midtown Service and Treatment Center sees people come from all over the region, including St. Charles and Warren counties, and she said people will benefit from these donations for a while.
“Usually by the end of January, early February we have distributed everything, but they bring so much,” Beck said.
Part of the reason the group is able to bring so many donations is because of the generosity of the community, Cannon said.
“I’ve emptied out Truesdale City Hall four times in the last week,” he said, crediting stories on both the radio and in other Warren County media for getting the word out to residents. “And it’s not just in the barrel. It’s a line down the hallway.”
And those donations are now benefiting a number of people in need.
“It feels great to help,” sixth grader Parker Coosson said.
About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at firstname.lastname@example.org