Sometimes, it’s difficult to recognize poverty, even when it affects someone sitting right next to you.
Several Power Middle School students see it more clearly now, thanks to their involvement with Operation Common Good (OCG). The charity launched in 2004, after a group of Warner Middle School 8th graders put together a drive to help one homeless family. Since then, more than $100,000 has gone directly to students in need of help with food, clothing, gas cards, school fees, and more.
Social studies teacher Dr. Tera Shamey brought OCG with her when she moved from Warner to Power, because the need for help has only grown. Last Friday, for instance, District Homeless Coordinator Hattie Ligon heard from a family with a simple request.
“They lost their home, they were living in a hotel and then a shelter,” Shamey said. “All they asked for was $13 for a field trip.”
Student Council president Morgan Persell, 13, said Operation Common Good provides help anonymously and discreetly, because people who need help often have trouble asking for it. Kids may not want to take clothing, for instance, because the person who donated it might recognize the item.
“Sometimes when kids are struggling, they don’t talk about it, so you don’t really know,” she said.
Natasha Davis-Mickles, 12, said she got involved with Operation Common Good because “you’re helping people around you. It might be someone sitting next to you in class.”
“It’s kids helping each other,” added 13-year-old Kamini Playle.
Emmett Noonan, 12, pointed out that Operation Common Good also does something for students who don’t need anything at all.
“It’s raising awareness that there are people in classrooms that need help, and you’re helping them,” he said.
“It’s kids actually learning about the world, that there are kids your age who don’t eat three meals a day,” said Zaria Floyd, 14.
Shamey said that fundraising efforts across the district have faltered since she was transferred to Power from Warner Middle School. While some of her former students have tried to keep the effort going, Operation Common Good started out this year very low on funds.
The need, however, hasn’t slowed at all.
“We still receive phone calls for help every day, from all over Farmington Schools,” she said.
The student group organized “White Out Hunger” and “Black Out Hunger” fundraisers held last week. Their very first fundraiser brought in more than $1,000. They’ve planned another fundraiser before the holiday break, and Shamey said that principal Allyson Robinson is also allowing a “casual day” to get teachers into the act.
Shamey’s students say she sparked their interest in Operation Common Good. Noel Thomas, 13, said the stories that she tells “make you want to help more.”
“I want to raise so much money that we can keep this going on and on, and get more people involved,” he said.
The diverse group that now leads Operation Common Good, Shamey said, also reflects the need in Farmington Public Schools.
“People make assumptions about who receives help from Operation Common Good,” she told the students. “I’ve heard them. You guys represent a picture of who’s helping who.”
Learn more and donate at operationcommongood.org.