JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Students at Nettleton Junior High School are starting a major project to help the homeless in the community.
Four boys in the EAST class are collecting dental and hygiene items to put in backpacks for those in need.
Parker Clements, Seth McMasters, Nathan Belk and Jaber Abustnenh were looking for a project idea for class.
"Seth came up with the idea to work with the homeless and we all collaborated with it and we talked about doing the backpacks to help out," Clements said.
The students got the idea after they saw a Region 8 News story about a Jonesboro man who helps the homeless downtown.
Michael McGaha started that backpack program, so the boys reached out to him to see if they could help in any way.
"So we teamed up with him and kind of put all of our necessities with their necessities and put it together," Clements said
The students then partnered with several businesses in the area to see if they could provide donations to fill the backpacks.
So far, Newk's has provide water bottles, Holiday Inn and Hilton have provided lotion, shampoo, conditioner and body wash, and Higginbotham Family Dentistry and Rowe and Rowe provided dental hygiene products.
"We will give people full backpacks to keep in their vehicles so when they see people in need they have that accessible and are able to give them something," teacher Kerry Eliason said.
Throughout this project, the students have learned that homelessness is a big problem in Region 8.
"The Salvation Army told us there is about 50 or 60 people who come per night and stay the night to eat and sleep," Clements said. "That was a real eye opener for me because I didn't know how many people we actually had that stayed there."
The backpack project is just the beginning for the EAST students. Their main goal is to build a house.
"We do not want to put a band-aid on the problem, we want to solve the problem so we came up with Houses for the Homeless," Eliason said.
McGaha will help the students on this project as well.
The plan is to build a small home for a homeless family in the Nettleton School District.
Students have already started drawing plans for the home.
Eliason and the students are going to the school superintendent Monday with the idea and plans to see if it is something the district can do.
For now though, the students will continue to fill the backpacks and get them ready for those in need.
Eliason said they are always looking for more donations.
"We look forward to partnering with anyone in Jonesboro that would like to work with us," Eliason said. "The more people in Jonesboro that we can get involved in this then the better our community is."
If you would like to partner with the EAST students on the backpacks for the homeless, you can contact Eliason at 870-910-7819 Ext. 105.
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