CHARLOTTE, N.C. – When you think about Charlotte’s homeless, you may not think of children. But every school in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools district has students who are homeless — about 3,000 in all.
A Child’s Place helps those kids. This summer the organization has a special intern who not only believes in the cause, she’s lived it.
Madison Sampson loves to play with the kids at camp.
“I just want to reach out to them, hug them and play with them. I know how important that would’ve been for me,” said Sampson.
She was once like the kids at this camp. She was homeless. The camp is run by “A Child’s Place, an organization dedicated to helping homeless kids in Mecklenburg County.
Until Sampson started high school, her parents struggled to pay the bills. A Child’s Place was a bright spot in her childhood, but she can remember what it was like to have no home.
“We can’t go to this place because we have no gas to get there. … I’m tired and I’m ready to go home, but there may not be lights on when I get there,” Sampson recalls.
She wipes away tears when she tells her story of getting a library card.
“I remember when I was in fifth grade and I was with A Child’s Place. I had to go to the media center and get a library card. They said, ‘What’s your address?’ I didn’t know what to say because my friends are there and I was too ashamed to say I lived at the shelter,” she said.
Sampson’s family had stable housing as she moved into high school.
“It was very humbling after living the way we’d been living for awhile. There’s still people below us. Just because we’ve been able to make such a large jump in our socioeconomic status, there’s still people below us. Our friends are still in situations where they need help,” Sampson said.
She’s reluctant to tell her story for fear she will seem better than those who still struggle, but she knows the benefits of sharing her story.
“Not everyone wants to hear that, especially those that are still suffering or hurting from things they’ve gone through,” said Sampson.
But that doesn’t stop her drive.
“What’s kept me going is people don’t expect me to keep going,” she said.
Now a Philip O’Berry Academy graduate, she is getting ready to head to UNC-Greensboro on a full scholarship.
This summer she is interning through Bank of America’s Student Leaders program. The program awards paid internships to students working for non-profits. She will spend this week in Washington, D.C., with other student leaders as part of BofA’s Student Leadership Summit.
Sampson is learning the business side of a non-profit that so greatly impacted her life.
“To see Madison here gives us a great deal of hope. The planting we are doing now, the fruit of our labor that it will become,” said Annabelle Suddreth, executive director of A Child’s Place.
Sampson still sees how great the need is for so many kids and hopes many will choose to give back to their community.
“This is what frustrates me. They know what’s going on and they want to help but they do just the bare minimum,” she said.
For Sampson, there are no excuses.
“There’s so much you can do with nothing. That’s all my parents have been telling me,” she said. “There’s so much you can do with nothing. Why give up? Why take the easy route?”
How to help A Child’s Place
If you donate to A Child’s Place, here’s what your money will buy:
- $10 buys after school snacks for two homeless children for a week so we know they’ll have something to eat.
- $25 buys a school uniform for a homeless child to go to school dressed like his/her classmates.
- $50 provides a dental visit for a homeless child to get a painful tooth filled so he/she can focus in class.
A Child’s Place also has a big need for donated items. Easy things you can drop off!
To donate in person:
Drop off items/donations Monday through Friday 8:30 to 4:30pm 601 E. 5th Street, Suite 130, Charlotte, NC 28202.
NewsChannel 36 Staff