Fifth-graders at Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary are making a difference one stitch at a time
by Cassidy Najarian | March 18, 2019
Instead of spending recess playing, some Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary fifth-graders have been using their free time to help the homeless.
Teacher Charlotte Geisler has invited her reading and language-arts students to learn to crochet by making scarves and hats. Once a month, she collects the kids’ creations and donates them to local homeless shelters.
Before Geisler, 53, started teaching two years ago, she worked as a volunteer for AmeriCorps. Altogether, she has been volunteering for 35 years.
Geisler decided to do something to help the homeless after she saw people camping under an overpass.
“I love crocheting, but I was running out of people to give stuff to,” she said. “So I thought I would start dropping them off at the camps.”
When Geisler told the students at her southeast Oak Cliff school about what she was doing, they were eager to help. With their support, Geisler was able to shift from giving to the homeless at their encampments to donating to shelters.
“We have some of the biggest-hearted kids at this school, and they all want to give back even though most of them have very little,” she said.
“It feels really good to help people and have fun doing it,” said Samiyah Grandy, a member of the crochet club.
“They need it more than we do,” classmate Yahir Netro said.
Their creations aren’t perfect, but Geisler is proud of her students for picking up crocheting.
“We mess up a lot,” Samiyah said, laughing. “But every time Ms. Geisler shows us, it gets easier and easier.”
Charlotte Baker, advancement manager for Austin Street Center, said all donations to the Dallas emergency homeless shelter are welcome.
“It lets people know they are safe and there are people to take care of them,” she said. “It makes a huge difference.”
Brenda Snitzer, executive director of The Stewpot in downtown Dallas, is happy to see the students getting involved.
“It’s so wonderful when parents or schools can teach how important it is to care for others when they are young,” she said. “Kids that volunteer or learn to give back at a young age will be lifelong philanthropists, which makes them better people.”
Homemade gifts can have a big effect on people in need, she said.
“When they know people are going to that level of caring where they are personally making something for them, it makes them feel like they matter,” Snitzer said.
Geisler, who was named the Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary Campus Teacher of the Year in 2018, looks forward to continuing the crocheting club with her fifth-grade classes in the coming years.
“I … [feel] like maybe I was doing what I was meant to be doing,” she said. “These kids have my heart; they are my kids. I can’t imagine not doing the same thing again.”
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