PROSPECT — The Scott family’s suburban home nestles snugly into a recessed lot abutting a quiet cul-de-sac, suggesting all the modern comforts that accompany homeownership.
But Tracey Scott, in an attempt to instill in her two young children the importance of philanthropy, is concerning herself with the plight of those who don’t now enjoy — or maybe have never known — the warmth of a family home, or even the promise of basic shelter every night.
She, with the help of Noah, 7 and a half — he’s insistent about the half — and Abby, 5 and a half, collects donations of personal items to fill what she calls “personal care kits” to distribute to homeless families.
The kits include, but are not limited to, basic medicines, snacks and even playing cards, which are intended to supplement the food and basic hygienic items supplied by homeless shelters.
“We met with the Salvation Army, and he talked to me about different things that [the homeless] get from a shelter,” Scott said. “And he said there’s just so many other things that the shelter doesn’t provide that they want, you know, like Tylenol and Advil, antacids, snacks, paper and pens, playing cards, coloring books, something to do with their children in the shelter.”
She said the idea was Noah’s more than her own, a claim to which he took bashful exception last week.
“It started out with me talking to my kids about homelessness and how they didn’t understand it, couldn’t grasp the idea of people not having homes, people not having possessions, people not having things,” Scott said. “We were talking about that, and my kids had a lot of questions, and I didn’t have a lot of answers for them, you know: ‘Why,’ ‘How do we help,’ ‘What can we do,’ ‘Why can’t we just build them houses,’ and then my son said ‘Why don’t we just get them stuff to make them feel better?’
“Just get them some stuff,” Scott laughed. “That’s the easiest way to put it.”
So she sent out flyers to the elementary schools, talked to kids and parents at a movie night at Algonquin school and addressed the assembly at Prospect Congregational Church, giving out bags with lists of needed items for interested donors to fill.
So far, she’s collected about 70 bags, and plans to begin doling them out soon.
But she doesn’t want to just hand it all over to the Salvation Army for them to distribute — she wants her kids to witness the very problem they’re fighting.
“I want them to be here when they distribute them by hand,” Scott said. “I want them to see. I want them to understand. This is something I think they need exposure to. I want them to feel that sense in their heart that they really want to help.
“I’m just trying to instill how good they have it,” she continued. “I think at a young age, it’s important to instill helping thy neighbor, and helping them realize that while we may not have everything, we have more than some others certainly have.”
Scott is in the running for a $5,000 grant through Pepsi Co.’s Refresh Everything campaign, in which community activists submit information about their service projects to an online database, where the public votes for its favorites.
Scott said with that money, she would expand the scope of the care kit project to include bus passes and gift cards to grocery and department stores.
Currently, the Scott family’s “We Care Kit” project is ranked 69th in the $5,000 category; the top 10 entries in the category will receive funding.
Those interested can cast a vote every day here. Voting ends June 30.
But with or without a boost from Pepsi Co., Scott said she intends to keep the project going.
“I’m not trying to solve the problem of homelessness, and wasn’t really the intention, just to give them a little dignity, make them feel better, help them out in another way that other people aren’t doing,” she said. “I think it gives people the opportunity to help in a small way. They may not know how to help. … This is a very small way of helping someone who needs it.”
She can be reached at (203) 232-1350, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.