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Student’s grad project helps homeless kids

Half of the people served by Harbor House Crisis Shelters are children.

"They don’t have a lot of their own things," said Barb Certa-Werner, director of the shelter that serves homeless women and families. "They don’t have their own toys. They don’t have their own supplies, and people forget there are homeless children in our community."

Maggie Brown, an incoming senior at Superior High School, is using her senior project to change that. The project is focused on helping Harbor House Crisis Shelters and the children it serves.

"I’ve always felt so blessed because I had the most amazing childhood; it’s nice to try to help people feel the same as I did," Brown said.

Despite her happy childhood, Brown was familiar with Harbor House Crisis Shelters. She was friends with Certa-Werner’s older daughter. And she had family who experienced homelessness. She said her relatives grew from their experience with Harbor Houses, so she decided to take on the project.

Brown is holding the "Kid’s Collection" Aug. 5-7 at Faith United Methodist Church to collect craft and school supplies, and kid-friendly hygiene products, to help Harbor Houses throughout the year. She said she learned the shelters are able to offer supplies because of community collections at the start of the year, but the supplies don’t last as long as they are needed.

"Everybody’s all gung ho about getting things ready to help kids start school, but they forget that they have to continue on in school and they still need supplies," Certa-Werner said.

During the course of the school year, Certa-Werner said Harbor House Crisis Shelters get fewer and fewer supplies that students need.

"This is one way to provide supplies for the children that come in, but it also reminds the community that there are homeless children here and they need our help and support," Certa-Werner said. "Whatever people may think of adults that are homeless, children really are victims here. They really don’t have a choice or a say in the situation. We just need to keep that in mind."

In addition to the collection, Brown has set up a Gofundme site for monetary donations to help with expenses for items people would never think to donate, she said.

"For Harbor House, part of what we love to do is to be a point of education," Certa-Werner said. She said from social services interns, the shelter likes to engage people in hands-on learning. She said it’s a great opportunity for Brown to learn more about homelessness and homelessness among children, and the impact that has on the community.

Certa-Werner said it’s also a good opportunity for Harbor House, a ministry of Faith United Methodist Church, to engage a young person in what they do.

"The best thing that we can do to help support them, and work toward things that prevent homelessness," Certa-Werner said.

"I think it’s really important to look back at yourself and remember how blessed you are and realize that others aren’t near as fortunate," Brown said.

On average, Harbor Houses shelters serve about 450 people annually, and another 40 are served through the shelter’s transitional living center, and the Samaritan Fund helps another 250 people.

"Not everyone is homeless; we try to work on prevention as well," Certa-Werner said. "There’s a lot of people that we’re working with."

And she’s hopeful the community will lend a hand to Brown as she tries to share some of the happiness she experienced growing up.

"I really hope that people help support our young people make a difference through this project and other projects. This is an opportunity to be a reference for our youth as they go to adulthood. It’s valuable for us as a community to support these senior projects as our kids move on."

The senior project is a requirement for graduation.

People can donate money at now through Aug. 7.

Brown will be manning the Kid’s Collection to accept donations of supplies from Aug. 5 to Aug. 7 at Faith United Methodist Church, 1531 Hughitt Ave., Superior.

"I’ll be sitting out there waiting to collect some fun stuff," Brown said.