MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Every Tuesday, as part of our community changers series, we highlight organizations making Memphis better. This week, we caught up with a group eliminating stress for some students.
Filling grace bags all started when Sheleah Harris was a high school teacher. One year, she noticed a shift in one of her students.
“His behavior changed drastically. He was always vibrant, always engaged,” Harris said.
Then ,he would come in and lay his head down. She also noticed he would wear the same clothes every day. She pulled him aside to find out what was going on.
“He told me he and his mother were homeless,” Harris said.
She quickly realized there were little resources when it came to helping students who were dealing with housing insecurities. That is why she created the Living Grace Organization.
“The supplies we give them,” Harris said. “The toiletries, school supplies, the transportation, all of that is to make sure that when they walk into the classroom, they can focus on their schoolwork and not everything else around them.”
Living Grace partners with schools, K-12, where homeless youth have been identified.
Since 2016, they have served over 350 students.
“It’s beyond paper and pen, computer and flash drive,” Harris said.
Shamille Jones is a graduate of Hillcrest High School. She was a classroom teacher and now one of their professional school counselors. She has students ask if they could assist with washing their clothes.
“If we could provide them with additional food,” Jones said. “Along with what they get from the cafeteria, but they may need some snacks.”
Every student who receives a bag is grateful.
“When they receive those bags, their faces light completely up,” Jones said.
Plus, if you noticed, the bag that Sheleah showed us, has no logos. There are no identifying marks. That is intentional.
“And so, if you were to see someone with this, you would think anything of it,” Jones said.
This is why our anonymous donor wanted to give Living Grace a thousand dollars.
Because when you eliminate one or two external stressors for a student so they can focus on their schoolwork, you set them up for success. A true community changer.