Project Jack: Helping Homeless in Sioux City

Four teachers at River Valley Elementary School collaborated in the Pay It Forward project that benefited the homeless in Sioux City.  

River Valley Elementary 4th & 5th graders recently completed a project to help the homeless in Sioux City with a grant from the REALTOR® Foundation of Iowa (RFI) Project Jack initiative. This is a nice note written by the teachers and sent to the RFI.

Project Jack was started at Alan Shepard Elementary School in Long Grove, IA as a way to remember one of their students, Jack Lindaman, who passed away when he was in first grade from SMA, spinal muscular atrophy.  Jack's parents originally funded the first Project Jack but it has since been carried out and supported by the REALTOR® Foundation of Iowa.

Back in November, Mrs. Dana Hanson, River Valley Elementary 4th & 5th grade ELA teacher, began designing a unit around the idea of empathy and how we can show empathy towards others.  As she began putting the unit together Mrs. Hanson had a desire to develop an authentic opportunity for students to practice empathy.  She spoke to her principal, Mrs. Melissa Holtz, who shared the Project Jack information with her. Mrs. Hanson then spoke to her other 4th & 5th grade teaching partners and together they worked with students to develop their Project Jack plans.

Students read books about characters who were impoverished and who were shown empathy by others.  As they read, more articles and discussions were had in reading Mrs. Hanson began asking students to consider how they might help others with similar needs.  Students began brainstorming ideas and teachers then introduced the Project Jack grant.  Students and teachers developed a plan that would allow them to help families in need through The Gospel Mission in Sioux City.  The plan was to use any grant money to purchase hygiene products for individuals, put the care packages together and then deliver them to The Gospel Mission but, as students became more invested and they considered ways to help even if they didn't receive the grant, the project became a labor of love.

Each teacher began cross-curricular instruction to help students take their learning deeper.  In math, students worked to develop a budget and determine how many hygiene packets could be put together.  In social studies students learned about poverty and impoverished areas.  They read about others in history who had helped those in need. In science and in conjunction with DARE, students also discussed how our decisions directly affect our outcomes.  

In January, just after returning from winter break, each of the 4th and 5th grade teachers received confirmation that they had each been awarded $250 to carry out their Project Jack plans.  Teachers and administration met to work out the details and reached out to Dave Delzell at The Gospel Mission to organize the day.  The date was set and on March 22nd all 4th and 5th grade students were able to see their project through to completion.  

Teachers and administration, students, parent chaperones, the school's DARE office, Mr. Zane Chwirka, and The Gospel Mission's staff worked together to fill 80 hygiene bags with shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpastes, and razors for guests of the mission.  In addition to this support, students and adults also helped to bag bulk products for individual use and sort clothing in the mission's clothing warehouse.  The morning was filled with lots of smiles and gratitude, all made possible by the grant from the REALTOR® Foundation of Iowa.  

This experience served to not only allow students the opportunity to engage in community service but also experience an authentic learning project that helped to the deepen their understanding of empathy.  All-in-all, the day was a major success. It was a win-win for everyone and a day students and adults won't soon forget, all made possible by Project Jack ---PAY IT FORWARD!

The school would like to thank the REALTOR® Foundation of Iowa, The Gospel Mission, and the Woodbury Country Sheriff's Department for their support!


Melissa Holtz
Dana Hanson
Jim Bezoni
Tonya Carstens
Noah Phillips

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