McDonogh School reaches out

April 24, 2002|By Linda Linley | Linda Linley,SUN STAFF

Petite Laura Douglas was lugging filled trash bags almost as big as she is out of a basement storage room and onto the sidewalk along Calvert Street at North Avenue in Baltimore.

"I'm strong," said Douglas, 15, a sophomore at McDonogh School in Owings Mills. "I can handle it."

Two blocks away, at St. Paul and 21st streets, teacher Laddie Levy was supervising more than three dozen teen-agers filling a big metal bin with trash from an old aquarium supply store.

"They're good workers," said Levy, an English teacher at McDonogh for 32 years. "They'll finish the project."

About 120 McDonogh students and their teachers, all sporting bright orange T-shirts, were volunteering at Project PLASE Inc., a nonprofit organization that works with the homeless and the poor in the city.

The group at Project PLASE was a part of the contingent of 700 middle and upper school McDonogh students dispatched yesterday in nearly two dozen buses and vans throughout the metropolitan area as part of a schoolwide Community Outreach Day.

Project PLASE (People Lacking Ample Shelter and Employment) was one of more than a dozen locations where McDonogh students were working.

Students cleaned three homeless shelters and several storage facilities for Project PLASE; they planted flowers at the organization's headquarters in the 1800 block of St. Paul St.; and they helped reorganize a thrift store run by the project in the 2000 block of St. Paul.

They also volunteered at soup kitchens, nature centers, state parks, the Baltimore Zoo, Habitat for Humanity, Garden Harvest (a small farm that raises produce for urban food pantries), Police Athletic League centers, Meals on Wheels and the Ruxton House health and rehabilitation center.

"I think it's good for the kids to be here," said Levy, as he watched them fill the trash bin on 21st Street in an hour. "They are sitting on an 800-acre campus in [Baltimore] County, so we need to bring them into the city and make them feel a part of it."

Community Outreach Day - the school's second - was a project organized by 16 seniors at McDonogh whose goal was "an opportunity for students to learn how effective an instrument of change they can be," according to the faculty, staff and senior leaders.

"It has been a logistic nightmare," said Bobby Singleton, 17, one of the senior leaders. "But the seniors last year laid the foundation, and we learned from them."

The seniors coordinated volunteers, arranged for transportation, rallied faculty and organized a drive to collect sports equipment for athletic league centers and a canned food drive for shelters.

"The kids have done all the work on this," said Libet Ottinger, an adviser to the senior leaders. "They made all the arrangements; they spoke to students and faculty in the middle and lower schools, and they divided up the calls to the locations where they were going to be volunteering."

The seniors have been working on the logistics of involving the student body of 1,265 students since December, but the past two months have been more intense, said Pete Backof, 18, another senior.

Seniors Stephanie Landsman, 18, and E.J. Hamilton, 17, said the school was excited about participating in outreach day.

"The kids really wanted to help," Landsman said.

Pupils in the lower and middle school - those below eighth grade - were assigned projects to complete at the school while older students were out in the community.

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