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Local Teen Awarded Grant, Helps Veterans

Homeless veterans around Indianapolis are sleeping under cozy new blankets and sporting scarves this winter, thanks to the efforts of a student and her peers at Shortridge High School.

Using funding from the Youth Engaged Service (YES) Grant provided by the Indiana 4-H Foundation Alice Pickett, president and founder of the high school’s Lost Arts Club, purchased tie blanket kits, yarn, and crochet needles for the club to create much needed items for local homeless veterans.

During many after school meetings, club members made 18 blankets and crocheted 14 scarves. All items were donated to Helping Veterans and Families (HVAF) of Indiana the week of Christmas.

“I am grateful for the YES Grant and Indiana 4-H Foundation for selecting me and my club for this grant,” said Pickett, a resident of Westfield, Indiana and a nine-year member of the Hamilton County Llama Trekkers 4-H Club. “It provides club members with the opportunity to learn new skills and help local Hoosier Veterans and their families.”

Sponsored by the Nola Gentry Charitable Trust and Corteva Agriscience, this grant celebrates noteworthy service projects that are organized, budgeted, and implemented by Indiana youth. The Lost Arts Club was one of 16 statewide projects funded by the YES Grant and Indiana 4-H Foundation, promoting a culture of community service by uplifting projects that directly address community needs.

“Without the grant, the Lost Arts Club would have never been able to accomplish what we did,” Pickett said “Being able to help veterans during the holiday season and provide them warm blankets and scarves was an awesome opportunity we won’t forget.”

The boxes wrapped in festive paper were placed in HVAF’s downtown location where veterans could grab a blanket or scarf; or both.

“I like the fleece blankets because they are warm and soft,” said Andrea Carlile, HVAF Community Engagement Coordinator. “The blankets go really fast.”

She said they may not last the week and if there are any leftover, they will be distributed by one of their outreach volunteers.

“I loved seeing our blankets and scarves go to people who need them,” said Ellie Truitt, a student at Shortridge and a club member. “I never knew our club could have an impact like this, it’s awesome!”

The idea for the club came to Pickett in 2020 when Shortridge High School transitioned to eLearning in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “The idea of the club is to expose students to arts and crafts that are not commonly taught in school or at home,” said Pickett. “As a club, we discuss projects that we want to do, like knitting, crocheting, origami, photography or anything else people want to try. Then we select a couple to focus on during the year.”

During afterschool meetings, students kids learn a skill and create various projects.

Pickett provides instruction she learns from experience, the internet, and YouTube. Materials are either provided by the club or items that are commonly accessible.

 The meetings are also a time to talk, enjoy a fun activity, and have a break from the rigors of academics and the other pressures of high school, Pickett said.

She also noted the club focuses on community service. Many of the early projects were made for teachers in the school to give them a boost and appreciation for the tough job they have.

An example was origami with inspiring messages. The students learned the art of origami and distributed their creations in the teacher’s mailboxes as a surprise.

Pickett saw the YES Grant as a way of expanding their service outside school and providing materials for the club they would not normally have.

 “We on the YES Grant Committee find ourselves inspired by the thought and passion that went into these grant proposals,” said Aaron Sandel, Indiana 4-H Foundation Board and YES Grant Committee member. “Each recipient was chosen through a detailed proposal review, and these grant winners exemplify the themes of service, organization, and dedication that we sought.”