The World Language clubs at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School (PWHS) have once again come together to fill comfort bags for the Grace Café. Grace Café offers weekly restaurant-style community meals for its downtown Philadelphia neighbors experiencing homelessness and struggling with food insecurity.
Between Thanksgiving and the Winter Break, members of the French Club, Latin Club and Spanish Club challenged each other to collect the most toiletries — including items like toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo, cleansing wipes and tissues.
"We decided to collect travel-sized items, because many of the folks served by Grace Café are either homeless or housing insecure and live out of a backpack that they must carry with them," explained PWHS teacher and Spanish Club adviser Katy Geare.
Through the clubs' collecting efforts, the students were able put together 250 comfort bags after school on the Friday before the Winter Break. Volunteers who helped package the donations included Jackie Arcaro, Brooke Balkiewicz, Caroline Borio, Annika Eisner, Jess Frangiosa, Grace Guie, Emily Hoang, Sanaan Mehmood, Sofia Mehmood, Grace McCall, Alexis Morlan, Courtney Patterson, Becca Porter, Sarina Smith and Niki Tier.
"I decided to donate my time because I feel that it's important to help people in your community," said PWHS Junior Rachel Kalani. "The most rewarding part about volunteering and donating to the toiletry drive was knowing that I was helping people who really needed it."
The bags were given as a parting gift after the Sunday evening meal on December 23. Students who helped deliver the donations that evening — including Ashley Amon, Grace Guie, Emily Hoang, Rachel Kalani, Becca Porter, Alexis Minor and Paige Scott — also had the opportunity to help serve the dinner.
"I wanted to donate my time to Grace Café, because I know that during the holiday season a lot of people don't have a place to go and eat a hot meal," said Ashley Amon, a PWHS Senior. "The most rewarding part was seeing the smiles on the guests' faces when I served them their food."
"I enjoyed being able to talk to these people and hearing their stories," added PWHS senior Becca Porter. "It's a great way to give back and connect with different people who have had different experiences in life. I have volunteered at different soup kitchens before and thought this was another opportunity to help more directly then just donating items."
Grace Café is located in the basement of Arch Street Methodist Church across the street from Philadelphia City Hall.