Choices Changemakers: Isaac Helped the Homeless
When his uncle lost his home, Isaac leapt into action. The 18-year-old organized a massive backpack drive that served 3,000 other struggling families.
Ever since he was little, Isaac McFarland has had a close relationship with his Uncle Reggie, a selfless construction worker and fellow football fan who would slip him cash to spend at the bowling alley.
That’s why it was so heartbreaking to watch his generous uncle lose his apartment after he was laid off from his job last fall. “I knew I had to do something to help,” Isaac says.
So Isaac came up with Hearts for the Homeless, a citywide drive that collected backpacks for homeless veterans, teens, and children in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. Each bag—which Isaac saw as a way for people to lug their belongings from shelter to shelter—was also packed with the small but significant items (graciously donated toiletries, school supplies, and healthy snacks) they needed most.
Last year, Isaac distributed 3,000 backpacks, and the eye-opening experience taught him that there’s no stereotypical homeless person. In fact, this issue affects 3.5 million Americans each year—including some of Isaac’s own classmates. “It was upsetting to find out that people I see on a daily basis have these huge challenges in their personal lives,” Isaac explains.
As for Uncle Reggie, he’s back on his feet and couldn’t be prouder. “He was very excited that I was able to turn his story into something good and bright,” Isaac says.
Think beyond food! These items help too:
Hygiene is essential to health, so don’t forget soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, and toilet paper.
2. School Supplies
Homeless kids are “expected to have the same things—paper, pencils, pens—as everyone else at school,” says Isaac.
3. Leisure Items
Crossword puzzles, books, and toys are fun distractions from a stressful situation.
More Heroes for the Homeless!
• NADYA OKAMOTO
After her own family fell on hard times, this 17-year-old was inspired to collect essential hygiene products for homeless women near her hometown of Portland, Oregon—and beyond!
• ALBEMARLE HIGH SCHOOL
One class of 10th- graders collected a whopping 2,100 cans of food—a contribution that helped this Virginia high school donate more than 7,300 cans to a local food bank.
• SAM & LOGAN LEPPO
Using woodworking skills they learned from their grandfather, these twin brothers from New Jersey handcraft wooden toys, then distribute them to homeless kids in their community.
The Facts That Matter: Homelessness
• 1.7 million U.S. teens experience homelessness every year
• 14% of Americans live below the poverty line
• Lack of affordable housing is the leading cause of homelessness for American families
Sources: 1. National Alliance to End Homelessness; 2. U.S. Census; 3. U.S. Conference of Mayors 2014 Status Report on Hunger & Homelessness
Images: Shutterstock (backpack); Donald Erickson/Getty Images (toilet paper); Kyoshino/Getty Images (notebook); Jessica Wecker/Photo Researchers RM/Getty Images (Rubiks Cube); Courtesy of Nadya Okamoto (Nadya); Courtesy of Albermale High School (cans); Courtesy of Leppo family (Sam & Logan)