The Clements/Parsons Kids Care Club made hope chests on Monday for children in shelters, as part of a philanthropic program designed to get children involved and aware of what goes on in their community.

This month, the Families in Crisis shelter in Killeen visited the kids and talked to them about children less fortunate than themselves, said Ann Marie Aker, a teacher and the club’s founder.

“It was age-appropriate and they understood that there were others less fortunate that didn’t have homes,” Aker said. “When it dawned on them that these kids didn’t have their own space, the first thing they wanted to know is if they could put blankets and pillows in the hope chests.”

The hope chests were shoe boxes the children designed with pom-poms and sparkles. The students filled them with friendship cards and bracelets, snacks, coloring books and more.

A list of things children in the shelter needed also was provided, said Shakinah Marion, case manager and volunteer coordinator at the shelter. Toothpaste and toys are a big deal for these kids.

“It’s difficult to talk to kids about violence but its best to teach them early,” she said. “It may be scary, but if it’s scary it may stick. They need to know what ‘healthy’ looks like.”

The kids lined up by grades in the parking lot armed with their hope chests, and one by one they filled the trunks of the shelter’s representatives and thanked them for coming to visit.

Juanita Wright, the shelter’s outreach coordinator, said it was “an aha moment to see that these kids understood and cared about others.”

“By them learning now they may be able to help someone else in the future,” she said. “It just flutters my heard to see this. They get it.”

And get it they did, especially 11-year-old club member Michael Strauspaugh.

“I think to open up and care, not just for people in shelters, but to care for others, helps me to see that there’s more than just myself to consider,” he said.

Autumn Alford and 10-year-old Joey Wright agreed.

“Every time I come to club meetings I learn more about people,” said Autumn, who is 11 years old. “I want to give these kids hope by letting them experience what every kid should have.”

“I’m just thankful that at least they have a place to live at the shelters,” Joey said, shaking his head.

The club consists of prekindergarten to fifth-graders, and meets once a week to make gifts and invite guest speakers to the school before they visit organizations. | 254-501-7476

Corinne Lincoln-Pinheiro | Herald

A journalist by trade, Corinne has written for both the military and civilian populations. She has a Master's in Writing and Bachelor's in English. She is also a military spouse and her family is currently stationed at Fort Hood.

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