Parchment Students Show Heart for Homeless

Parchment Middle School students assemble personal care kits at their Pop Up Volunteering event.

It began with a story and ended with a volunteer effort touching the lives of 600 homeless kids.

Ninety students at Parchment Middle School held a Pop Up Volunteering event with United Way BCKR on June 1. The students from teacher Meg Vollick’s ELA classes packed 600 personal care kits that were delivered to The Ark youth shelter in Kalamazoo.

While Pop Up Volunteering events have happened at local businesses, this is the first time United Way brought one to a school, said Jamie Rugg, Director of Engagement.

“Pop Up Volunteering brings a community volunteer opportunity right to a group,” she explained. “It’s a great on-ramp for people who want to volunteer and make a meaningful difference without a huge time commitment.”

Vollick’s students began their journey to volunteerism when local author Rick Chambers, who also spearheads marketing and communications for United Way BCKR, read one of his short stories to her classes. “The Chasm” tells the tale of an arrogant young businessman who mysteriously swaps bodies with a homeless veteran and lives a harrowing, hungry, lonely day on the streets of New York City.

While discussing the story afterward, the students showed a desire to do something meaningful. Vollick suggested a volunteer project, and Chambers brought up Pop Up Volunteering.

“These kids are showing the rest of us how a little compassion and effort can make a big difference in someone else’s life,” Vollick said. “That’s what Parchment Schools tries to instill in every student. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

After packing the personal care kits—ZipLok bags filled with personal hygiene items—Vollick had her students write short essays about what being homeless might feel like. Many said they came away with a deeper understanding of homelessness and how they can help.

Vollick said she hopes to scale up the effort next year to involve many more students.

Want to find out more about Pop Up Volunteering or host an event at your site? Fill out the form below, or send an email to

Please note: This date is not a guaranteed date. Many projects require at least 3-4 weeks notice or more to schedule volunteer groups.