Third-grader initiates project to benefit the homeless

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Rachel Garick shows examples of the bags that are filled with items for the homeless.
Photo/Liz Nolan

By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer

Northborough – Fannie E. Proctor Elementary School third-grader Rachel Garick started with a simple idea – fill a bag with items and offer it to a homeless person. It has now turned into a school-wide service project.

Rachel and her mother Lauren often head into Worcester for errands and have noticed homeless people on the side of the road. Rachel felt strongly about helping them and decided to fill an old backpack and an old dance bag with items that a homeless person might need the most, such as bottled water, a toothbrush, toothpaste and granola bars.

Rachel said giving out the bags instead of money was more important because some people are desperate to survive and money may not be used for the items they need the most.

The reaction of the bag recipients so far has been very positive.

“They seem happy,” Rachel said.

Since she started this effort in September, Rachel now uses large paper lunch bags. In addition to the toiletry items, a list of area shelters with addresses and contact information that Lauren helped compile is included in each bag.

Inside the bag are the necessities, but the outside of the bag also has something special. Rachel writes handwritten sayings of hope on them, such as “Someone is looking out for you,” “Good things are coming your way,” and “Stay strong.”

“It gives the bag a human connection,” Rachel said. “I hope it makes them feel more comfortable.”

Rachel said she didn’t start this project for any attention. She had no goals of how many bags she would donate or a timeline, but knew she would continue as long as she could. She tries to have filled bags in her mother’s car so when they see someone in need, the bags are ready to hand out.

“I just want to do something that helps,” she said. “When you do something good for someone, it gives you a warm feeling. You are doing something to change the world.”

After choosing to do a class project on homeless people and sharing her personal effort to help the homeless, Rachel’s teacher took notice. The school typically has monthly collections to help the Northborough Food Pantry, but this month’s collection is to help Rachel fill more bags for the homeless.

Rachel said she felt the need to help the homeless in her heart, but the connection to the homeless runs far deeper than she knew at the time she started her effort. Rachel is adopted and her biological parents were homeless, a fact that Lauren recently shared with her.

Lauren said her daughter has always been insightful and that Rachel has inspired her to get involved as well. They are currently looking for additional volunteer opportunities that they both can do together.