Maple Grove students organize to give and learn from homeless
She fell asleep on the cold cement floor and woke to the sound of her stomach roaring. With $2 in her pocket she made her way to the store to find something to eat, not knowing when she might have that luxury again.
After Allye Doyle took a trip with her youth group to experience homelessness in Minneapolis, she knew she had take action to help.
“We slept in a garage on the cold cement floor in our sleeping bags and we had to go to school the next day to shower and get ready there,” Doyle said. “It was tough. After that, I talked with my friends about seeing what we could do. I had a way bigger impact than I thought I was going to.”
Doyle rounded up her friends and together they created an organization at their high school to help the homeless. They called it MG Gives Back.
“Our main goal is to help support the homeless,” said Jenna Thron, a student at Maple Grove Senior High and member of MG Gives Back. “We know that we can’t just hand out tons of money or buy them homes, but we can give them certain things they need to survive in their circumstances.”
MG Gives Back uses donations from area churches and the school to give food, clothes and hygiene items to those in need. The group has gone to Target with donation money to buy packaged food, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes and toothpaste and brought it to area shelters.
They also took a trip to Our Savior’s Housing, a homeless shelter in Minneapolis, to get to know the people there. They played games and shared stories with those staying at the shelter.
“Going to the shelter and listening to their stories really moved me,” said Doyle.
“A lot of us didn’t really know how to approach them or relate to them,” said Thron. “It wasn’t really until the end when they started oping up to me.”
Thron went on to explain one man’s story that stuck with her after she left.
“A man I talked to said that the holidays are the worst time for him. He sits on the city bus and just drives around. From time to time he would get off and walk in the cold. He said he would look through the windows of the bus and see all the families together and was reminded of his family. But when he would go to his brother’s house, they wouldn’t invite him in. They’d pretend they weren’t home.”
Thron doesn’t know why this happened to him, but she made it a goal for MG Gives Back to not only make financial and food donations to shelters, but to help support and motivate the residents.
Doyle was amazed by the kindness and generosity those at the shelter.
“The man I played Bingo with was really cold and had a blanket wrapped around him,” Doyle said. “He told us he could use some socks because his feet were often so cold they hurt. But he noticed that a young girl at the shelter was also cold and he got up and wrapped the blanket around her. I asked him why he did that and he said ‘She needs it more than I do.’”
Beyond making donations to shelters, Doyle and Thron want to make sure to visit with people staying at shelters. They hope MG Gives Back will make visits to local orphanages and pet shelters as well. Doyle said in the future they are hoping to work with local businesses that would be willing to make donations to their cause. Another goal the girls have is to change the way people think about the homeless.
“Everyone thinks of homeless people as drunks, druggies and gamblers,” Doyle said.
But after visiting Our Savior’s, Doyle knows that’s not the case.
“I talked to a woman who was extremely intelligent,” said Doyle. “She talked to me about mechanics and electronics; she had a masters degree! When I asked her why she wasn’t working she told me her dad died a while back and her mom had recently passed. She took time to take care of her mom and couldn’t pay back her student loans.”
Both Doyle and Thron agree that helping isn’t just about writing a check, it’s about emotionally supporting other people and helping them rise above their circumstances.
“We need to help them feel like they’re not alone,” Thron said. “Just visiting with them and hearing their stories makes a big difference in their lives and in ours.”