Bailey True and Kacey Whitfield put their painting skills to the test inside a pantry at Salem’s HOME Youth and Resource Center. (Submitted)

Bailey True and Kacey Whitfield put their painting skills to the test inside a pantry at Salem’s HOME Youth and Resource Center. (Submitted)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

For a group of Whiteaker Middle School students, the hardest part of helping out at Salem’s HOME Youth and Resource Center was the most easily overlooked: keeping clean.

“That was the biggest challenge because there were so many of us painting in the small space,” said Megan Provost.

Provost and seven of her peers in the National Junior Honor Society at the school spent Saturday, Dec. 4, painting the interior of a food pantry at HOME.

“HOME is an organization for teens ages 11 to 17, and 18 if they are still in school. They serve lunch and snacks and dinner for teens that are homeless,” said student Noah Gould. “We went there to paint their pantry, which is pretty much a shack in the backyard of the house that they have there.”

“Teens can go to HOME to take showers and get food,” added Paytonn Wirt. “I wish we could have done more.”

The project was arranged by Pat Curran, a Whiteaker counselor, as part of the students’ commitment to the five principles of the NJHS: character, scholarship, leadership, service and citizenship.

“There’s a difference between sitting at home thinking, ‘I’m in National Junior Honor Society and that’s cool,’ but not doing anything,” said student Kacey Whitfield. “A lot of adults underestimate what we can do as kids.”

To be considered for the NJHS, students must maintain a 3.5 grade point average and then apply to be part of the program. The process includes writing a cover letter and filling out an application that is reviewed by Whiteaker teachers who make the final decision as to who gets in. There are about 40 Whiteaker students in the NJHS, but many complete independent service projects ranging from free babysitting to assisting at their churches.

“We do the projects as part of NJHS, but you don’t have to be part of it to help out,” said Alyssa Richardson.

In addition to lending their time and talent to HOME, the students learned about the types of services the organization offers to youth in need.

“They have a culinary program where they can make food for each other and it helps them build skills for finding a job,” said Ashley Doerfler.

“It was interesting to find out about how other people are living,” added student Grace Trammell. “Not everyone can have as much as we do and it was cool to see how other people are helping those kids. It was nice to be able to give back to them.”

As much work as it was to paint the pantry, student Bailey True said it was equal parts fun.

“We got to climb on the shelves and between them to paint the walls,” she said.

Given that, it’s no wonder they had trouble keeping clean.

Members of the Whiteaker NJHS are looking for new projects to tackle in the coming months. If you know of a project that needs assistance, contact the school at 503-399-3224.