When a group of DeLong Middle School students gathered under a large pine tree at Wilson Park in downtown Eau Claire late Monday afternoon, they were doing more than singing Christmas songs.
The couple dozen children and their chorus teacher, Sarah Olson, were at the location to raise awareness about Eau Claire’s homeless population. The site was appropriate. The Sojourner House homeless shelter at 618 S. Barstow St. is just around the corner from the park.
In previous weeks those students and others had solicited personal care items to donate to Sojourner House and the nearby Beacon House shelter. On Monday they lent a cheery voice, in the form of Christmas music, to the sobering topic of homelessness.
Last year was the first in which Olson had her students collect items for homeless people and sing at the park just before Christmas. Their joyous music at that location, their breath visible as they sang, was a visual reminder of the cold weather Eau Claire’s homeless population faces.
“I want you to reach out to help others in your community,” Olson told her students during a short break between songs Monday.
As I sang along with the group and daylight waned, I recalled a frigid December night four years earlier at this same location, a night when I stood in the same spot and watched as homeless residents gathered outside of Sojourner House hoping for a bed that evening. I am glad the plight of those people who have no place to call home is remembered still today, one voice at a time.