When preparing the next generation of adults to live in a society, Lolo social studies teacher Maureen Edwards educates youngsters about the value of developing a social conscience.
Whether it's seventh-graders studying overpopulation in the Orient or eighth-graders discovering problems on their home turf, Edwards emphasizes the need for students to be a part of their community and give something back through service projects.
So when four gifted Lolo eighth-graders wanted to help Missoula's Poverello Center develop a publicity package that could help the homeless shelter and food pantry better educate the public about its mission, Edwards gave it full support.
"It's an awareness issue," she said. "Every place in the world has problems, and we have our problems here, too. Developing a social conscience - it's kind of the bottom line when you teach about living in a society."
When the four Lolo students embarked on the project, they knew little if anything about the Poverello Center.
"It's kind of a mistake that no one knows about this," said Ashley Pledge, 14.
"It's their single, biggest flaw," said Ted Miller, 14.
"If people know more about it, maybe they'll help," Pledge said.
Last week, the quartet unveiled a PowerPoint presentation and a trifold color brochure for the center's board of directors to use for fund-raising efforts and education outreach.
Both publicity tools outline all the services the center provides, including its emergency housing, a food program that feeds 200 to 300 people daily, a clothing room that outfits 25 to 35 people daily, laundry, showers, health clinic, veterans outreach and social service referrals.
Pledge said she didn't know the Joseph Residence - which provides transitional housing for up to nine families, classes and case management - even existed before she began her research.
The presentation also defines the center's core supporters: more than 40 churches, more than 200 community groups, individual contributions and volunteers. Less than 4 percent of the center's budget is for administration. Donations and volunteer efforts cover 60 percent of the center's maintenance costs.
"The brochure is absolutely wonderful, and we're very excited about the PowerPoint presentation," said Liz Rantz, Poverello board president. "We've wanted to have something like it for a long time."
The information will prove valuable for board members to take to various community organizations and deliver presentations.
"We really appreciate Maureen Edwards and her kids for taking the initiative," Rantz said. "It's the kind of gift we really value from the community."
To show the PowerPoint presentation, all the board needs is a projector, computer and a projection screen.
Students developed the project package during the past month, during home rooms, lunch hours and after school.
"When we saw how much the Poverello meant to people, we wanted to do anything we could to help," said Williams, who also knew little about the center. "It really does help people."
R.J. Woelich, 13, said the students possibly may create a Web site for the center that will provide information similar to that included in the brochure.
In addition to discovering all the details about how the Poverello Center operated, Woelich said he learned how to use Power Point. "I'd never used it before," he said.
Students said they still plan to train the board in how to make additions or changes to the presentation.
"It's a great thing they got going on and people should support it," said Kristina Walters, 13.
Reporter Jane Rider can be reached at 523-5298 or at email@example.com.