Wake Forest students create ‘Helping Hands’ to send gloves to workers at ground zero

Wake Forest University students Melissa Poe and Jill Bader have begun what they hope will become a national project to support the clean-up crews who are still working around the clock in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

Poe and Bader, who met during elementary school in Nashville, Tenn., have started “Helping Hands,” an effort to send new work gloves to the cleaning crews in New York City. The project began in October when they asked a supplier to sell them gloves at a discount, and got students at Sherwood Elementary and Jefferson Elementary in Winston-Salem to decorate more than 200 pairs of the gloves.

“Any time something happens of the magnitude of September 11, people just want to help,” says Bader, a freshman. “Adults can go to New York and volunteer or send money to different charities, but kids want to do something, too. We thought asking them to help us decorate the gloves would be an easy way to give them a way to help, and to cheer up the clean-up workers at the same time.”

Bader and Poe said their motivation also came from knowing what even a small project can accomplish. Since 1989, the two have been involved in Kids for a Clean Environment – Kids F.A.C.E. Poe, now a Wake Forest senior, founded the non-profit group when she was in high school. It is now the largest children’s environmental organization in the world.

“If everyone found one small way to help a cause that they’re passionate about, and just asked a few others to join them, there is no limit to the good that can be done,” Bader says.

To get Helping Hands started, Wake Forest students visited local elementary schools and watched as the young students drew American flags on the gloves along with messages like, “God Bless America.”

It did not take long before word about Helping Hands got back to Nashville. Students at Bader’s high school, Saint Cecilia Academy, quickly organized a local drive for gloves, as did students at a school in Charleston, S.C., who heard about the project through word-of-mouth.

Today, more than 500 pairs of gloves bearing messages of thanks and encouragement have been sent to the workers through Helping Hands. Gloves were sent to the New York Fire Department’s Ladder Company 6 and to a Fox affiliate station in New York City which is collecting supplies and donations for the relief effort.

Poe and Bader hope to extend the project to several more cities, but they need more gloves and money to pay for postage.

To get involved with Helping Hands, please write to Bader at badejc1@nullwfu.edu or P.O. Box 28042, Reynolda Station, Winston-Salem, N.C. 27109.

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