PORT RICHEY — It's all about survival skills: learning how to sew by hand and on a machine, how to make a batch of brownies or a complete meal from scratch. This time of year, it's also about spreading a little warmth in the community.
That's the idea behind Project Cover Up, an annual outreach for students in Sue Evanoski's family and consumer science class at Chasco Middle School.
This past semester, eighth-graders have been churning out an assortment of colorful blankets. The blankets, along with hats, scarves, tote bags and sweat shirts the students have worked on, will be given to homeless veterans and their families Dec. 18 at an event that will include free food and haircuts at the Salvation Army on Washington Street.
This is the fourth year for the project coordinated by Evanoski and media specialist Bunnie McCormack. This year it was funded by a grant from the Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union and the Pasco Education Foundation.
In previous years, the students' handiwork has benefited teenage mothers and homeless families, said McCormack, who acts as liaison between the school and local service organizations.
For Evanoski, it's a project that she hopes will leave a lasting impression on students who will soon move on to high school.
"It's really an opportunity for them to really be concerned with others in the community," she said. "The typical reaction from the students is that it's cool."
Or "awesome," according to students My Nguyen and Ashley Dyer. Ashley had completed nine blankets and was putting the finishing touches on one more during first-period class last week.
"It's really nice to know that what we're doing will help people that don't have a thing," said Ashley 13, who also serves as president of the National Junior Honor Society at Chasco Middle.
"I think it's a really good thing to be helping someone else," said My, 13, who was working at the sewing machine, stitching together her very first patchwork quilt. "Inside you feel all wonderful about it because you actually did something good."
"For me it's a great thing provided by God," said the Rev. Morson Livingston, founder of St. Jude's Homeless Veterans Resource Center in Land O'Lakes. On Dec. 17, Livingston, a former Army chaplain, will pick up the blankets and other homemade items to be distributed at the Salvation Army.
"This is wonderful," said Livingston, noting the increasing numbers of U.S. veterans living on the streets. "This is a good education for these students, to be aware that many of these people who are walking the street fought in wars to defend this country."