Remembering the homeless

Haunted house not just for fun but fundraising

Founded in 1993, the Rensselaer chapter of Circle K International—a collegiate version of the service organization, Kiwanis International—has been putting on an annual Haunted House fundraiser since 2004. I joined the chapter this autumn, unaware of the event. Each year, all of the collected money is given to an institution voted on by club members. At the weekly club meeting on Tuesday, September 15, we selected Joseph’s House as the institution which all proceeds from this year’s Haunted House would be donated to.

Joseph’s House is a “Troy community-based not-for-profit corporation, whose purpose is to prevent and alleviate homelessness,” according to its website. It does so by offering emergency shelter, permanent housing, support services, hospitality, and guidance to homeless individuals, youth, and families at its 74 Ferry Street location in downtown Troy, where RPI Circle K members volunteer on a monthly basis.

There is a staggering homeless population in Eugene, O.R., where I hail from. Vagrants freely roam the streets of downtown, many of them mentally ill, looking for clothes, money, food, and shelter. Consequently, defeating homelessness has been on my mind wherever I go, because it’s such a devastating reality that affects many more people than we often think. In the coming weeks, there should be another opportunity to serve at the soup kitchen at Joseph’s House, and I’m eagerly awaiting the opportunity.

“There are families that live there with a bunch of kids, and during the winter months, they squeeze a lot of people into that place,” said RPI Circle K president Kelsey Sudol ’16. “There are even certain men who give up their spots to others and go sleep in churches and such. It’s a really great attribute of Troy for being such a tiny center.”

Rensselaer’s Tau Nu chapter of Phi Gamma Delta and Epsilon Zeta chapter of Alpha Phi Omega will co-host the Haunted House with Circle K this year. If you haven’t already found the more than 100-year-old ’87 Gym to be a creepy place, particularly when it is silent and dark inside, the Haunted House will surely challenge your skepticism.

Besides helping at Joseph’s House, RPI Circle K also volunteers at the Albany Food Bank, Wit’s End, and Hope Seven, in addition to doing several small-scale service projects for a wide spectrum of people at the end of every meeting. Albany Food Bank is a monthly destination, while Wit’s End and Hope Seven are biweekly endeavors.

At Wit’s End, Circle K members do arts and crafts with kids who suffer from autism and ADHD. At Hope Seven, members provide tutoring services in math, reading, and writing to local elementary school students from 1st through 5th grade. A few weeks ago, I tutored an eight-year-old named Gavin, whose work ethic and focus significantly impressed me. It led me to reminisce on my own experience in elementary school, a time when doing my homework was not so high on my priority list. It was comforting to see him work diligently, which helped me to imagine his success later in life.

For our small-scale service projects so far this year, we have, among other things, made bookmarks for children at Albany Medical Group and made decorative placemats for the elderly who receive food from Meals on Wheels. I particularly remember my placemat, which featured a crossed fork and knife centered on the page with the headline “Enjoy!” written in large bubble letters. Not knowing where that placemat ends up does not bother me, as long as someone out there is able to enjoy it.