Midvale Middle students’ memorial blankets raise homelessness awarenessFeb 03, 2023 09:25AM ● By Julie Slama
Midvale Middle School after-school students work on tying quilts for the Homeless Remembrance Blanket Project; their quilts were on display in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of Canyons School District)
A winter solstice storm brought snow and a wicked wind chill.
That night, hundreds gathered as more than 150 people’s names were read. Officials say that’s twice the number in 2020; these individuals had died as a result of homelessness.
As part of the Homeless Remembrance Blanket Project, blankets and quilts were distributed, said Connie Crosby, Canyons School District’s liaison for homeless students.
“At the candlelight vigil for every person who passed away on the streets, we pass out blankets,” she said about Canyons, and specifically, Midvale Middle, participating in the Remembrance Blanket Project.
The project’s goal was for each state to make at least 100 blankets, with 90 or more being shared locally, and to send 10 to Washington, D.C. as part of a 9,000-square-foot national display.
Two quilts Midvale Middle students made after school were to be displayed by the Washington National Cathedral as part of the project. Other handmade blankets were on display on the west lawn of the capitol.
After being displayed, Midvale Middle’s quilts along with others that were knit, crocheted and handsewn were to be shared with those in need.
The project began in December 2021, when 219 blankets were displayed in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on the longest night of the year. The nonprofit Charles Bruce Foundation jumped on board to urge citizens nationwide to make blankets and take the display to the capitol to rally to end homelessness.
In support, Dec. 21 was designated to be a day to think of those who live unstably housed and those who die that way.
Midvale Middle’s involvement began when Crosby had seen a flier and shared it with her assistant, Sharon Higgins, who works at Midvale Middle, one of Canyons School District schools that has a steady number of students who are or have experienced homelessness in their lifetimes.
Higgins immediately was on board and asked a West Jordan quilter, Vicky McIntosh, for assistance. McIntosh, who made and donated five quilts on her own, sewed the quilt tops from donated materials for the schoolchildren’s project.
After learning about the project, about a dozen students who are in Midvale Middle’s after-school project volunteered and committed to tying them over three days in the school library.
“This was a great project to be associated with,” Higgins said. “It was truly a pleasure seeing the students work together, to give of their time to learn something new and for them to be proud of their accomplishments to have something comforting they helped make for others in need. It was a labor of love.”
She also said that the students bonded over helping others.
“After we told them what the project was for, the kids were all in. They got to know each other and had a great time making the quilts,” she said. “They absolutely loved it and took great pride in doing it. For some, it was their first time serving others and for others, it was a way to give back as they may have been homeless themselves and this was a way they could share.”
Midvale Middle is about one and one-half miles from The Road Home shelter in the same community. Crosby said as part of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act as part of Every Student Succeeds Act, she and her staff support students who experience homelessness and poverty. These students historically have high mobility and loss of housing, putting these students at great risk for educational challenges.
Crosby estimates that during a given year, about 1,500 students in Canyons District are homeless.
“Nationwide and statewide, we’re seeing an increase especially in families experiencing homelessness,
between the cost of housing and COVID,” she said. “My whole goal is to provide opportunities for students experiencing homelessness and help them graduate so that we can break the cycle of poverty. Education clearly is the way out of poverty.”
She is able to provide students with backpacks and school supplies, clothing, fee waivers, transportation assistance, immunizations and other medical help and other needs.
“I write a lot of letters for them for college applications so that they can get the FAFSA Pell Grants to get admitted into college. I also work with a lot of students that have IEPs (individualized education programs) and I do a lot with transportation,” she said. “My primary goal with this project was to call attention to how many unsheltered children we have on the streets, and it was wonderful working with these students. They were so excited and so willing to give; it was touching.”