MIDVALE — Beds. Toys. Microwaves. Clothes. Vacuum cleaners. Rugs. Pots and pans.
They covered the lawn of Copperview Elementary School in the late afternoon, as an eager line began to form on the perimeter. Twenty minutes later, nearly everything — all 10 truckloads worth of items — was gone.
An estimated 75 families in need showed up to a giveaway of donated household goods at the elementary school on Wednesday, staffed by more than 50 volunteers. The event was open to families from all four of the Canyons School District’s Title I schools, as well as all refugee families in the district.
“People just stepped up,” said one of the giveaway’s organizers, Amber Walbeck, watching as volunteers carried furniture and boxes to trucks, which would deliver them to homes. “It’s been incredible.”
Walbeck said her ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Draper had worked on service projects in the past with Copperview Elementary, where Walbeck’s sister is an assistant principal. When it came to the ward’s attention this summer that about 20 families in the district were in need of household items, Walbeck said the ward decided to help, initially only planning to help the individual families.
But then the donations from the community started to pour in, and didn’t show signs of stopping.
“It just kind of exploded and grew,” Walbeck said. “Everybody just kept giving more and more.”
The ward enlisted two Boy Scouts working toward their Eagle Scout rank — Tyler Balls and Hawkin Vawdrey — to help organize. While Balls handled household items, Vawdrey worked to assemble food boxes for 60 families, using donated food from nearby stores and the local community.
“When I went into this project I thought it was going to be small,” said Vawdrey, a 14-year-old student at Corner Canyon High School in Draper. “But then once we started getting donations, I realized how big it was and how awesome this outcome was going to be. It just wowed me.”
Donated items ranged from ottomans to shoes to dishes to linens. Twenty-five refugee families had items delivered straight to their homes, in a pre-ordering system of sorts.
Walbeck saw the giveaway as filling a need that some people in the relatively affluent area might not have realized was there.
“People don’t realize” the challenges some of their neighbors face, Walbeck said. “When we started (working with Copperview Elementary) a couple years ago, people were like, ‘What? We don’t understand.’ And we were like ‘No, we really have a serious need.’”
Helping families helps the schools their children attend as well, pointed out Amber Walbeck’s sister, assistant principal Deidre Walbeck.
“We can’t really focus on a lot of the students’ academic needs until we fulfill their needs they have at home,” Deidre Walbeck said. “That’s kind of what the purpose of this was: to get them what they need first.”
As the giveaway wound down, just minutes after it began, volunteers chatted and began to clean the now-green-again lawn. Among them were some of the families receiving donations, who had stayed to pitch in with the clean-up effort.
“They were willing to help, jump in, wherever we needed,” said Jenna Landward, a community school facilitator with the Canyons School District who works with Copperview Elementary. “We didn’t expect to have that. It’s beautiful.”
The generosity and cooperation demonstrated Wednesday was a testament to the strength of the community, school officials said.
“What you learn in the world, regardless of the struggle and the need, is there is always far more good,” said Copperview principal Jeri Rigby. “We have an abundance and if we’re not willing to look beyond ourselves, that’s unfortunate.”