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Findley students share smiles, food with homeless

Terri Buckley's class to distribute Smile Bags every four weeks


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Students in Terri Buckley's third-grade class at Findley Elementary School prepare 'Smile Bags,' organic-food lunches in paper sacks they adorn with their artwork, on Friday, April 4.A first-hand experience with homelessness in downtown Portland proved catalytic for a group of third- through fifth-graders at Findley Elementary School, who are channeling their concern into productivity.

The result is “Smile Bags,” organic-food sack lunches with the paper bags decorated with students’ colored drawings. With the first batch of 60 going quickly on Friday, the kids, under the guidance of Findley teacher Terri Buckley, has committed to a similar donation project every four weeks.

The idea started simply enough, when a few third-grade boys from Findley, 4155 N.W. Saltzman Road, were downtown last fall with their moms and Palmer to visit Voodoo Doughnut, the iconic pastry shop on Southwest Second Avenue near the Burnside Bridge and Portland Rescue Mission.by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Smile Bags were distributed to people in downtown Portland.

“Down there we came across many unfortunate people who were hungry and needy,” Buckley said. “Our kids decided they wanted to help, so they gave out a few doughnuts. This didn’t seem like enough.”

But it sparked classroom conversations about the community, and “how there are many people who go hungry and who do not have a fridge full of food like most of us do,” Buckley noted.

With a classroom day off looming because of teacher conferences, a group of Buckley’s students, along with other Findley fourth- and fifth-grade students, chose action over playtime — and healthy food over sugary sweets.

Meeting in Buckley’s classroom, the students gathered organic-certified foods and goodies, including peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, apples, oranges, carrots, chips, cookies and lemonade. Decorating their “Smile Bags” with whimsical, colored drawings, the students packed 60 lunches to distribute to homeless people around the Portland Rescue Mission and Voodoo Doughnut, where they’d visited last winter.

“The lunches were gone in 10 minutes,” Buckley said. “We had droves of hungry people of all ages come over and get a lunch. It was heart-wrenching to see so many people so hungry, and it really impacted our children.”

They placed some of the Smile Bag lunches next to people wrapped in blankets and sleeping on sidewalks and in corners so, as Buckley said, “they would have a surprise when they woke up.”

Many of the recipients expressed their gratitude in no uncertain terms.

“One gentleman in his 70s told my boys that he was so grateful for lemonade. He said that he hadn’t had a lemonade in five years,” she said. “We spent time having conversations with these people, and the kids were genuinely so thrilled to help feed so many hungry people.”

With the children’s moms donating food and supplies, Buckley and her students plan to make a delivery of Smile Bags every four weeks. Homemade cookies and milk are the next items they’re adding to their bag repertoire.

“We decided that a day off from school could mean giving instead of getting,” Buckley said. “We wanted our children to understand that life is unfortunately not so fortunate for all. And instead of ignoring the problem, we can do something to help.”

To inquire about donations to the fledgling program, visit Findley Elementary’s website at beaverton.k12.or.us/schools/findley/ or call 503-533-1830.




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