A helping hand for the homeless
Rochelle Marquette, 26, has always been compassionate about the homeless. That compassion recently led her to complete two service projects to benefit homeless people in Rutherford County.
“Ever since I was young, if I’ve ever seen a homeless person I’ve tried to help them by giving them money or taking them to get food,” Marquette said. “So I thought what can I do to help besides just giving money every once in a while.”
Marquette is a student at Isothermal Community College and enlisted the help of Dr. Johnny Smith, dean of learning support and retention, to help her organize her thoughts and develop a way to help.
“I had all of these ideas and it got to an overwhelmingly big idea. So I went to Dr. Smith and said ‘you’ve got to help me figure out an idea and start doing this,”’ Marquette said. “It kept me up at night. I would think about it all the time. I would come up with ideas in my sleep and I would be waking up and writing them down.”
Smith enlisted the help of the Uncommon Leaders Club and they began collecting shoes through the Walk a Mile in My Shoes program and canned food to donate to the Grace of God Mission and Yokefellow Service Center.
“When Rochelle came up with this opportunity I thought all that she needs is an adviser to be a part of this with her,” Smith said. “We bought into that and we’ve been a big support.”
Marquette and her club started bringing awareness about the homeless to the students and faculty at ICC with the Faceless Project. For that project, students at ICC stood in the student center and displayed cardboard with facts about homeless youth.
“We did that first to bring awareness to the students about youth homelessness, not only in the country but here locally,” Marquette said. “While I was doing the project I actually met two students who had either gone through homelessness or were about to go through homelessness. One woman did it with four kids and was still in school.”
Then Marquette moved on to sharing facts about homelessness in Rutherford County by creating a Powerpoint for faculty and students. She conducted research for the presentation by visiting and helping to volunteer at Grace of God Mission and Yokefellow Service Center.
“I really started digging and talking to people and the more I dug the worse it got. I went to Grace of God and volunteered and actually saw someone that I knew that was getting food there and it really floored me,” Marquette said. “Every time I find someone that I know, that I had no idea they were going through these things, it hits me every time.”
The group began collecting the shoes and canned food earlier this month. The drives ended today, but Marquette is encouraging community members to donate straight to the organizations. She will donate the canned food to Grace of God and the shoes to Yokefellow.
“Grace of God is helping 100 to 200 people every night. Seven nights a week they are feeding families,” Marquette said. “I would like the county to realize how big this problem really is.”
Marquette plans to start another collection drive in January. She said her ultimate goal is to eventually start a nonprofit and to develop programs to get the homeless off the street.
“Her energy really sparked something and I know sometimes we don’t think students have a passion or desire to help,” Smith said. “I applaud her for her energy and compassion. She embodies what we want our students to do.”