Students Create ‘Street Store’ for Homeless During Community Service Day
Southern Adventist University took approximately 1,000 students and staff off campus for its 22nd annual Community Service Day on January 19 and several of those volunteers set up shop on sidewalks in downtown Chattanooga, building a temporary “Street Store” for the homeless. Clothing donated by the campus community hung neatly from cardboard hangers on fences as students rushed back and forth helping customers find exactly what they needed—shirts and shoes, dignity and hope.
With origins in South Africa, Street Store is a project designed to provide clothing for the homeless while giving them the chance to decide for themselves what they want and need instead of blindly accepting handouts. More than 120 groups have participated in hosting their own Street Store worldwide since January 2014 when the project launched in Cape Town.
Students were excited about participating in the project and the experience exceeded expectations.
“It was rewarding to see peoples faces when they found exactly what they were looking for,” said Carolita Claus, junior social work major, “especially when it came to winter clothes!”
For Street Store, Southern partnered with the Salvation Army and made use of space in front of its building to host the pop-up event. The location was ideal since the homeless population was already accustomed to visiting the nonprofit and the Salvation Army had inside space for the event should it rain. But a dry, cool morning greeted the 200-300 shoppers who came through that morning.
“If they couldn’t find what they were looking for, we had sorters on the other side of the fence who were restocking and were looking for different items,” said Andrew Anobile, senior social work major. “When they were finished we offered them a free meal we had prepared as well.”
Street Store was just one of the projects available for students to select from as they chose to embrace the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and volunteer in the community on the national holiday created in his honor.
“The homeless were so grateful,” said Dora Desamour, Christian Service Program director at Southern. “They really appreciated the individual attention.”