by Sue Ann Rybak
Volunteers from SPEAK (Staying Positive Equals Amazing Kids), a nonprofit organization that encourages kids to speak up against peer pressure and stand up for positive change within their community, dared to be the voice of the homeless when they broke the City of Philadelphia’s ban on feeding the homeless in public on Nov. 18 in Love Park.
SPEAK and other local community organizations and businesses including Helping Hands of Free Masonry, Arcadia University, Cosimo’s Pizza Cafe and Village Catering served Thanksgiving dinners and distributed winter coats, blankets, and other clothing to those in need.
In 2009, Staying Positive Equals Amazing Kids (SPEAK) started its first blanket drive to help the homeless and less fortunate. Adrian Templeton, of Helping Hands of Freemasonry, said she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from volunteers, local organization and businesses.
“This project was created to help the youth better understand just how hard life can be,” said Adrian’s husband Jeff Templeton, president of SPEAK. “It was also our hope that through this direct intervention these children would understand that being homeless could happen to anyone.”
He added that the difference between “how” a person becomes homeless and “why” they become homeless is an important thing to think about.
“Being rich or famous, does not exempt you from hitting rock bottom and losing everything,” said Templeton, of Germantown. “We have found that some of the homeless individuals whom we have spoken to were in fact very educated; despite how they looked and smelled and we also found that not all of them suffered from drug addiction.”
Templeton said some people can handle life’s stress better than others.
“Some people continually loose the battle to bad decisions as well as bad luck, and over a course of time those failures begin to weigh heavily on their self-esteem pushing it so far down that it gets to the point that they just give up and start thinking that nobody really cares about them,” Templeton said. “This seems a little scary because this sounds like what’s going through a lot of the minds of our youth today. We live in a very fast paced and ever changing world where convenience is awarded through technology which has and will ultimately lead to the reduction of personal stability.”
Community projects like this one are important Templeton said because “it’s not just beneficial for the people on the receiving end but, also beneficial to those on the giving side.”
“It’s not only doing something good for my heart, giving back is always good,” Mt. Airy resident Christopher Moore of SPEAK said. “Everybody needs help now and then, so it’s good to try to give back.”
For more information about SPEAK or to volunteer call its hotline number at 215-254-5157 or visit its website at www.phillyspeak.org.