Houses for Change: Kids with homes helping kids without

How do you teach kids values, like compassion and charity?

How do you teach kids such practical lessons as the value of money and saving?

Houses for Change does all that — and is fun as well. It is a national campaign started by Mark Wasserman of Boca Raton, Fl., to raise awareness of homelessness and to raise funds to help homeless families. Since its launch at the end of 2010, more than 17,000 kids in over 150 cities have created their own unique Houses for Change collection boxes.

The project was conceived as a result of Wasserman’s volunteering with Family Promise of South Palm Beach County, an interfaith organization that helps homeless families with children become independent again.

“The values kids learn from this project,” said Wasserman, “will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Using art supplies and their imagination, children decorate pre-ordered boxes to look like a house. Participants take their boxes home and in the following weeks fill them with loose change. On a selected date, kids bring their filled boxes back to the local sponsoring group for a communal donation to any homeless organization, food bank or related organization.

According to Wasserman, Houses for Change has universal appeal.  He noted that it has been adopted as a service learning project by schools and congregations.  The decorated boxes have been used at community service days and birthday parties as piggy banks; at churches as Advent, Lenten and collection boxes; and at synagogues as tzedakah  (charity) boxes.

Congressman Alcee Hastings recently recognized Wasserman and the Houses for Change Project in a statement on the House floor.

Houses for Change is more than an arts and crafts project, Wasserman notes. “It is an opportunity to teach about charity, homelessness, hunger and social action. It enables kids to realize that if they regularly save their loose change, it will accumulate to a large sum; and if they combine their savings with those of others, it can become a significant charitable donation that will help those in need.”

Houses for Change is sponsored by Family Promise, a non-profit organization that mobilizes communities to help homeless and low-income families. At there are details about how to organize this project, great photos of proud kids and parents with their creations, a TV news story, educational materials to download, and an online store to order the inexpensive undecorated boxes.

For more information, contact Chris Kaul, Family Promise Marketing and Public Relations, at (908) 273-1100 ext. 43 or Mark Wasserman, Coordinator, at (561) 699-5116.