Ross Township girl raises awareness about homeless children
Although homelessness among adults is a recognized problem, many people do not realize that more than 9,000 children slept at least one night in a homeless shelter in 2011, according to a report by Staci Perlman of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and Joe Willard of the People's Emergency Center in Philadelpha.
However, Ellie Fleischer, 9, of Ross Township and a fourth-grader at McInytre Elementary School in Ross, organized an event in partnership with the Homeless Children's Education Fund last month to help raise awareness about the issue.
An avid volunteer with her grandmother at a homeless shelter in Pittsburgh's Strip District, Ellie has developed a passion for spreading the word about those in need. She spearheaded “Stand Up: A Performance Art Installation,” which involved more than 100 students who, during recess on Oct. 19, stood quietly for five minutes while covering their faces with masks. The event was designed to mark Homeless Children's Awareness Week.
“The whole message of the week was to tell people that there are homeless children,” Ellie said. “During the Stand Up, we all held painted masks over our face, which represents the homeless children. A lot of times, you can't see them, so you're disguising yourself, and that's like what we did.”
Ellie took the initiative to make a presentation on homelessness, a task that her mother, Jennifer, 37, said is more than some adults would have undertaken.
“At first, I had a few reservations because I wasn't sure her friends and kids at school would take to it. She wrote and organized the presentation all by herself, and her friends really stood by her during the process,” Jennifer Fleischer said.
McIntyre Principal Amy Mathieu said Ellie's project had an impact on the school's students.
“Following the event, many students asked questions about supporting children who are homeless and thought about ways they and their families might be able to support them,” Mathieu said.
“Many students expressed an appreciation for their own family situation and showed compassion for those who are not as fortunate.”
Mathieu said Ellie is dedicated to her cause.
“Ellie's enthusiasm for supporting children who are homeless is contagious,” Mathieu said. “She is passionate about making a difference for others.”
Krystle Morrison, community outreach assistant for the Homeless Children's Education Fund, based in Pittsburgh, said the purpose of “Stand Up” performance-art installations is raising awareness about the issue and that they can have an impact on both the participants and passers-by.
She said the silent event has the power to raise questions, either from the volunteers or onlookers, and could be the first realization a person has that children experience homelessness, including some in Allegheny County.
Morrison said Ellie is helping the cause.
“She is, by her own involvement, increasing the awareness about children experiencing homelessness among her peers. And because of her efforts, there is the possibility that they will understand, in a small way, what it might be like for someone to live without stable housing and what they're response should be,” Morrison said.
Jennifer Fleischer said her daughter is enthusiastic about volunteering at the homeless shelter.
“For some people, it's a chore to go to the shelter,” Ellie's mother said. “But she's the one calling her grandma every weekend to ask if they're going.”
For the last three years, she has done everything from playing games or just talking, and, Ellie said, she enjoys bringing comfort to children who might not find it otherwise.
She said she hopes to organize an event in which her schoolmates can interact with the children she helps every weekend. In the long term, she strives to make her excitement about community service into a full-time career.
“I want to do this as long as I can,” Ellie said.
Alex Audia is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Steelers’ road show boggles the mind
- Penguins fall to 0-3 after losing to Canadiens
- 25 arrested in Western Pa., West Virginia child sex trafficking investigation
- New Pa. committee members believed to favor bill that OKs online gambling
- Black church leaders meeting in Pittsburgh target unity at Baptist convention
- Winger Bennett is bright spot in Penguins’ sluggish start
- Mt. Lebanon approves sharpshooters for deer
- FirstEnergy turns to dewatering to help solve waste issues at power plant
- Clinton, Sanders go on offensive in Democrats’ first debate
- Man killed by train in Homestead
- Development Dimensions International leadership grooming business uses own practices