For the last four years, the nearly 2,000 students at Tucker High School near Atlanta, Georgia, have known exactly who to approach for help when they’re going through a rough patch.
One of the school’s janitors, 54-year-old Carolyn Collins, is known for having a big heart, one with an extra special place carved for students who are homeless or otherwise disadvantaged. Her compassion stems, at least in part, from the fact that her own son was killed in a home-invasion robbery six years ago, and she’s determined to do whatever she can to ensure students don’t resort to stealing for their day-to-day needs.
She turned that compassion into action four years ago, when two students, a brother and sister, approached her early one morning before the school day started. They were living in a car with their mother, who’d dropped them off early so they could get ready for school in a restroom. Carolyn’s heart took charge, and after providing them with breakfast, she approached school officials with an unusual request.
“I knew that they weren’t the only kids at school who were struggling, and I thought, ‘I’m going to do whatever I can to help these kids,'” she said. “High school is hard enough without being homeless.”
And that’s how the “Giving Closet” was born. Carolyn got the ball rolling by spending $200 of her own money on socks, underwear, snacks and other necessities, but she and others involved with the project eventually cleaned out an old storage room to make way for everything from clothing and toiletries and school supplies to prom wear!
School officials say between 10 and 15 students are homeless at any given time, and Carolyn estimates she’s helped 150 students over the last four years.
Among them is 21-year-old Kennedy Carroll, a Tucker High graduate who’s now enrolled at Savannah State University. At one point in high school, he says, he moved in with a classmate’s family and Carolyn could somehow sense he was going through a rough time. She discreetly took him aside and asked what he needed, then promptly stocked him up with shoes, clothes, food, and other necessities.
To this day, her refers to Carolyn as his “angel”:
I learned that if I could conquer being homeless, that I could conquer anything. Because of her generosity, I didn’t give up. I’ll remember how good she was to me for the rest of my life.
Carolyn’s right: High school is hard enough as it is. Can you imagine how much harder these students’ lives would be if it weren’t for her generosity and compassion?
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