Anna Segal and her buddy George give the project to help the homeless a “Thumbs-up.”
Photo by Susan Belford.
“It’s nice helping homeless people and it really gives me something to smile about,” said Bullis 5th grade student Dillon Malkani. He and his fellow classmates have served as “Bullis Buddies” since the beginning of the school year to students at The Diener School — a school which serves children with learning challenges.
Bullis students share time and learning projects with their Diener buddies twice a month. “I love coming over to Diener because I like to hang with my buddy friend and do the activities. It’s so much fun,” said Anna Segal. Diener’s Head of School Lois McCabe said, “The program is a wonderful partnership with Bullis. The Bullis students are extremely invested in our kids and there is a very big connect. Each 5th grade student is paired with one of our students for the entire year and the relationship nearly always becomes a wonderful, supportive friendship that continues for many years.”
On Wednesday, Dec. 16, “Bullis Buddies” spent the morning helping their Diener buddies understand the value of giving back and doing something for someone who is needy. Each Diener student wrote a letter to a homeless person and helped with filling 40 backpacks with essentials including toiletries, men’s gloves, hats, breakfast bars, water and more. The backpacks were given to Bethesda Cares, a program that is eradiating the homeless in Montgomery County. Besides partnering with Bethesda Cares, Bullis is also partnering with “Good-Hearted,” a non-profit founded by Bullis student Ethan Copeland three years ago.
Copeland said, “I was living in California and I couldn’t walk down the street without seeing at least 10 homeless people. I felt a huge sympathy for their hunger and living situations — I and wanted to do something to help them. I started ‘Good-Hearted’ to provide bags of food to those in need. In the last three years, we have helped 400 people.” Copeland addressed the older Diener students and explained how “Good-Hearted” has changed lives and the importance of student service.
“The Bullis Buddies program gives our children the chance to communicate with other children and teaches them how good it feels when someone is nice to you and you are nice back,” said McCabe. “It is a wonderful program that builds self-esteem and teaches how important and accepting even a smile can be.”
Bullis student Logan Steren and his buddy William agreed that helping out homeless people is great because it’s really nice to know that they will be getting food and a backpack.
Peyton Bernard and his buddy Ryan like spending time getting to know one another better.
Diener student Tomas said that he was really happy to do this project together with Bullis. “It’s good to help out the homeless. Working with my buddy and helping others has helped to build my confidence,” he said.
Amy Freeman, development director for Bethesda Cares was thrilled with the backpacks that will go to the homeless this week. She said, “It is the job of adults in Montgomery County to end homelessness but it is terrific for children to see that they can also become involved in a meaningful activity that will help those who are in need of assistance. They are also learning that small thoughtful deeds can make a difference.”
Bethesda Cares is a community outreach program for the homeless, as well as a safety net for those at risk of eviction or utility shut-off. Regardless of whether the homelessness they are experiencing is temporary or chronic, clients need food, psychiatric help, a bathroom, a telephone and a place where they know they will not be told to “move along.”
Bethesda Cares offers a daily meal program; a Drop-In Center where clients can come out of the weather and find a warm cup of coffee; a clothing closet; a mail service for those with no fixed address; and a weekly shower program. A psychiatrist offers weekly group and individual counseling, as well as limited prescription assistance. To learn more about Bethesda Cares or to donate, go to www.bethesdacares.org.