Roughly 20 second graders sat down in the middle of their classroom at Somerset Elementary School as a multitude of bins filled with donated clothing could be seen right outside the classroom doors.
Overlake Hospital’s director of care management Dee Mann Aust, along with second-grade teacher Karen Greytak, answered questions and spoke to the class about giving back to the homeless community and the importance of helping those who may have not had the most fortunate circumstances.
Students made their way up to the front of the classroom, each holding a red fabric heart. Each heart contained a special message to go along with the bins of clothing that were ready to be delivered to patients in need over at Overlake Hospital.
This was the scene for Greytak’s second grade classroom on the morning of June 20 as students participated in initiating the first year of “Project Jason,” a clothing drive that was implemented within the elementary school as a way of giving back to the homeless community. With all of the gathered clothing throughout the school, each student in Greytak’s class produced their own heartfelt note on a red fabric heart for the recipients to have in addition to the clothing donations.
The school-wide clothing drive began accepting donations on June 1. The donated items will be distributed to patients who are experiencing homelessness or are less-fortunate as they are released from the hospital.
“Our social studies focus is on learning about our community,” Greytak said about her class. “My hope with this project is that the students will learn that there are a wide variety of people who live in our community and a wide variety of needs for those people.”
The project was inspired by an Overlake patient who was homeless who Greytak had the opportunity to meet. She said that the clothing drive, known as Project Jason, is named after the patient she met.
After the encounter, Greytak reached out to Overlake about putting on a clothing drive for needy and homeless patients who were from the hospital.
“Many of the students here are lucky enough to have all of the things that they need,” she said. “I wanted to increase their awareness of people who do not have the things that they need.”
The final part of Project Jason involved four of Greytak’s students who, alongside Aust, helped to transport the bins of clothing outside the classroom and into the back of Aust’s vehicle to be taken back to the hospital.
Aust said that hopefully this type of an experience will help the students at Somerset learn about the importance of valuing the little things in life.
“I hope it teaches them compassion and kindness,” Aust said.
With the help of Overlake, Greytak hopes that this project can continue to grow within the school as well as throughout the Bellevue School District for years to come.
“We have such a growing need to address the needs of homeless people in Bellevue,” Greytak said. “I think it would be wonderful for the students to take the lead in that.”