Officials will be ‘out in the cold’ to highlight homeless issue

Officials will be ‘out in the cold’ to highlight homeless issue

The Smithfield High School’s National Honor Society announced its “Into the Cold for a Warmer Winter” collection drive that will push school and town officials out of the office to work outdoors for a day if the goal, represented by balloons filling an office in each location, is achieved. (Breeze photo by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SMITHFIELD – Smithfield High School’s National Honor Society students thought a good way to raise awareness for homelessness would be to send town and school officials out in the cold in January for their “Into the Cold for a Warmer Winter” collection.

NHS President Caitlin Bessett said NHS students wanted to do a twist on a collection drive that would set it apart from others. She said knowing it would only run for two weeks, from Wednesday, Jan. 8 to Wednesday, Jan. 22, meant that “Warmer Winter” needed a draw to be successful.

That draw, she said, the 60 NHS members conceived together with the help of town and school officials. Should the drive reach its collection goals by Jan. 22, then those officials will work a day outside the office from 8 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23.

“We needed that incentive, that push, to get people to participate,” Bessett said.

To create a visual and tangible goal, NHS decided to give each donated item a balloon value, and fill town and school offices with those balloons. Each donated item has a balloon value, and each collection location has its own room to fill.

“It was something easy to see, and easy to picture the volume of our donations,” Bessett said.

There are three collection locations: Smithfield High School, 90 Pleasant View Ave., Smithfield Town Hall, 64 Farnum Pike, and the Smithfield Police Station, 215 Pleasant View Ave. Each location volunteered an official to work outdoors, and an office to be filled with balloons.

At SHS, Principal Dan Kelley, Vice Principal Ken Hopkins, and Assistant Principal Tammy Koller will work in the courtyard should the conference room be filled from floor to ceiling with balloons.

At Town Hall, Town Manager Randy Rossi will work outside the front door should his office be filled with balloons.

Police Chief Richard St. Sauveur will work out front should his office fill as well.

“We’re sending them out in the cold to raise awareness of the challenges homeless people face during the winter,” Bessett said.

Homelessness facts and information will be posted outside with the school and town officials, as well, Bessett said.

Ben Iannuzzi, an NHS member, said in many ways, homelessness is an unspoken issue in towns like Smithfield. He said raising awareness and gathering items for people in need is important to the group and Smithfield.

Smithfield may not seem like a place where homelessness exists, Bessett said, but there are more than 1,000 homeless people in Rhode Island.

“I want the barrels overflowing with items,” Bessett said.

All donations will be given to local charities and food shelters, she said.

Here are the items NHS is collecting and their given balloon values:

• Gift cards: Three balloons for every $5

• Nonperishable food items: One balloon for each item

• Hot chocolate: One balloon for one box

• Socks: Two balloons for one pair

• Diapers: Two balloons for every 12

• Earmuffs: Two balloons for each pair

• Hats: Three balloons for each hat

• Gloves/mittens: Three balloons for each pair

• Scarves: Three balloons for each scarf

• Cabin socks: Three balloons for each pair

• Gently worn shoes: Four balloons for each pair

• Undergarments: Four balloons for each pair

• Gently worn sweaters and hoodies: Five balloons for each one • Slippers: Five balloons for each pair

• Thermals: Five balloons for each piece

• Blankets: Six balloons for each one

• Coats: Six balloons for each one

• New shoes: Six balloons for each one

• Sleeping bags: Six balloons for each one 
Other items not on the list will be appropriately valued.

National Honor Society co-adviser Vincent Zibelli said each of the offices are big, and said the drive will need a lot of donations to be successful.

“Hopefully this is something that will bring the community together. It’s more than just a Smithfield High School drive, it’s a Smithfield drive,” Zibelli said.

In other NHS news, member Jess Nicholson said the group will be holding a gala on Saturday, Feb. 29, to benefit the American Heart Association. She said the fundraiser will feature samples and tastings from local restaurants for the entry fee of a donation.