After spending the night sleeping in cardboard boxes, members of Boy Scout Troop 262 of Greenwood on Saturday helped make sure others won’t be so cold.
By ROBERT A. CRONKLETON
The Kansas City Star
The purpose of the unusual campout was to teach the nearly 20 Scouts from the Jackson County troop about the plight of the poor and homeless — the same people the Scouts would be helping later in the morning by collecting coats and blankets as part of the 31st annual Project Warmth donation drive.
“The boys learned a lesson in humility — what it’s like to need and not have,” said Charles Dustin, an assistant scoutmaster with the troop. “What it’s like to not have that warm bed, not have that nice comfy blanket.”
The Scouts spent the morning loading onto a truck the coats and blankets that people brought to the drop-off site at the Summit Fair shopping center in Lee’s Summit. That location was one of 11 across the Kansas City area where people could make donations to the initiative, which helps people deal with extreme temperatures by providing coats and blankets as well as money for assistance with heating and cooling bills.
“There are just a lot of people in need, whether it be during the winter or during the extreme heat of summer,” said Vana Sweetland, who is with the marketing department at The Kansas City Star, one of the partners in Project Warmth. “Sometimes we just take for granted having a coat or paying a cooling bill.”
An official count from Saturday’s collection won’t be complete for a few days, but Sweetland said it initially appears to be larger than last year’s.
Leaders of Troop 262 decided a few years ago that because the boys helped with Project Warmth, they would camp out the night before in a makeshift box city at the Lee’s Summit collection site.
It was the third year for 15-year-old Matt Bowles of Lee’s Summit, an Eagle Scout, to camp out. The experience has been eye-opening.
“Being in your house, you don’t really think about what people out here are experiencing,” he said. “When you come out here, you start to realize it is a lot harder in the cold.”
The Scouts helped Wayne Brower of Pleasant Hill unload two bags of coats and one bag of blankets he was dropping off.
“I know people need these,” he said. “These are items we didn’t use and don’t need.”
Besides, Brower said, there are people in need because of the struggling economy.
Shortly after, there was a flurry of activity when Brittany Mathews, a middle school counselor with University Academy, 6801 Holmes Road, showed up.
Inside the car were 177 coats and 46 blankets collected by the school’s National Junior Honor Society, which held a coat and blanket drive for a community service project.
“I was pretty impressed,” Mathews said of the students’ ability to collect so much in a short period of time.
This was the first year for the honor society and the students’ first community service project. The students were able to collect the items in about a week and a half.
“It makes me proud of them that they care that much about the people in Kansas City,” Mathews said.
How to help
Couldn’t make it one of the drop sites on Saturday? There are other ways to donate.
• A drop site for coats and blanket donations is planned for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 12 at KCTV-5/KSMO studios at 4500 Shawnee Mission Parkway in Fairway.
• KCTV-5/KSMO will broadcast a “Project Warmth Special” from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Dec. 12. Telethon volunteers will take monetary donations over the phone that day until 7 p.m.
• Watch The Kansas City Star for a postage-paid donation envelope on Dec. 15.
• Donations can be made online at www.projectwarmthkc.com.
• You can mail a check or money order to Project Warmth KC, in care of the Mid America Assistance Coalition, One West Armour Blvd., Suite 301, Kansas City, MO 64111.