Albany teen's project looks to help others

ALBANY — Say you're on a long road trip and you get lost, run out of gas, or find yourself stuck somewhere you'd never imagined.

Or maybe you're stuck in a more permanent way: You've lost your job, your home, your main sources of income and shelter.

Either way, wouldn't it be nice to have a bag of emergency supplies on hand?

Haylee Burgdorf thinks so. The 13-year-old Albany girl created "Bare Necessities" bags, to keep in a car in case of need — yours, or someone else's.

The one-gallon, zip-closed plastic bags hold a variety of snack items, toiletries and other emergency basics, such as socks, gloves and cough drops.

They also contain a small slip of paper with the words: "I believe that every person should have something warm to wear, something to eat, and to know that somebody cares about them. You have just received a 'Bare Necessities' bag."

Haylee, who will be in the eighth grade this fall at North Albany Middle School, created the bags as a seventh-grader for Justin Roach's Leadership class and plans to continue the project indefinitely.

Roach's assignment: Create a project that will change the world.

Haylee said she and her mother brainstormed about projects before settling on somehow trying to reach out to the homeless population. The sight of people on the street holding signs asking for help particularly stuck in Haylee's mind.

"I've never really stopped to give them any money, but I've always seemed to think someone needs to stop and help them out," she said. "It seems like there's a lot of them. Maybe some of them have tried to get jobs and they just don't have the opportunity to."

So Haylee began collecting small items such as soaps, razors, toothbrushes and nonperishable snacks. She went to her neighbors for help. Eventually, she had enough to stuff 30 bags with nearly two dozen items each.

She could have dropped them off at a homeless shelter and called it good. But Haylee said she wanted the bags to be someone's personal gift. So she gave some back to the contributing neighbors, some to her classmates and one to Roach, and she kept about a dozen for her family to give.

Now the bags just wait in the car for someone in need.

Haylee's mother, Christy Burgdorf, gave away the family's first, to a woman sitting on the curb at Fred Meyer in mid-June. "She just really looked like she needed something," Burgdorf said. "She was so thankful."

Haylee herself gave one away not long ago to a man panhandling outside a McDonald's. He, too, was very thankful, she said.

"It's, to me, better than money, because it's something to open and look at," she said.

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