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Alberni high school students fill backpacks to help city’s homeless

Junior leadership students embraced service project, said teacher Mike Roberts
Mark Braunagel fills the back seat of his truck with backpacks and bags full of supplies the Grade 9 leadership class at ADSS collected for some of Port Alberni’s vulnerable people. (Jan. 15, 2021) (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Students in Mike Roberts’ junior leadership class at Alberni District Secondary showed one of the ways they are learning to make a difference in their community last week.

Students gathered 26 backpacks, bags and boxes full of personal hygiene items and clothing to donate to some of the city’s vulnerable people. Roberts invited Mark Braunagel, who is trying to open a recovery centre in Port Alberni, to accept the donations.

“He’s a guy that’s trying to make a difference,” Roberts told his students. Roberts and Braunagel grew up together, although they are separated by a couple of years.

Roberts’ students talked about a philosophy he imparts on his classes: that when they finish his class, they should find a way to make a difference.

Roberts’ leadership classes usually hold fundraising campaigns, but due to COVID-19 they haven’t been able to do that. He said students collected all donations from their own households.

Braunagel thanked the students for their campaign. “You are making a difference,” he explained. “It’s a lifestyle out there that’s really terrible. There are people in such huge need and they will be grateful to see what you’ve done.

“It’s important that we all do our part.”

On Friday the students helped Braunagel load the backpacks and bags they collected into his pickup truck.

Braunagel later went to the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue, where many people from the city’s vulnerable population can be found, to hand out the backpacks and other supplies.

“It felt great and was very well received,” he said of the students’ generosity.

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Mark Braunagel, left, an advocate for people experiencing addictions and homelessness in the Alberni Valley, addresses Mike Roberts’ Grade 9 leadership class in front of ADSS on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. The class collected backpacks and bags full of supplies for people who are living rough. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I have been the Alberni Valley News editor since August 2006.
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