Richland youth collects for veterans, Fargo shelter

Emma Erdahl, 12, took an essay topic and turned it into a charitable drive. The Richland Elementary student organized a drive for household goods that were donated to the Gladys Ray Shelter in Fargo.

Emma Erdahl took an essay to the next level.

On Wednesday, May 8, Erdahl completed a collection drive for the Gladys Ray Shelter in Fargo. The sixth grader, 12, was inspired after writing an essay on the topic of homeless veterans for her local American Legion Auxiliary.

“I finished the essay and knew what I wanted to do,” Erdahl said. “The shelter had a list of things they’re in need of and my principal said it was okay to do this.”

Erdahl’s classmates in the Richland 44 community of northern Richland County, North Dakota, participated in the drive. Items donated included toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving items and more.

“This is a really cool project for a sixth grader to embark on,” Principal Cindy Erbes said.

Tiffany Carlson, Erdahl’s teacher, was impressed by her full interest in the project.

“When she was starting on the essay, she asked me to work with her and was staying in at recess,” Carlson said. “We made phone calls to the shelters, the veterans home in Lisbon. It was all about making those communications and connections.”

Erdahl, a resident of Colfax, North Dakota, has been a member of the American Legion Auxiliary since birth. She was signed up by her grandmother, Paulette Witt.

“The essay was the first thing I’ve done for the auxiliary,” Erdahl said. “I saw I could write and participate in this.”

Veterans are members of Erdahl’s family, she said. They include her aunt, uncle and great-uncle.

“The Gladys Ray Shelter is a place where veterans can seek a temporary shelter until the can find a home of their own,” Erbes said. “The students in our elementary and high school were asked to donate.”

Erdahl was in charge of the drive. Before it launched on Wednesday, May 1, she talked with her peers.

“I went to all the classrooms, pre-kindergarten through sixth grade,” Erdahl said.

Richland Elementary and Richland 44 High School often have friendly competitions, Carlson said. It’s similar to the “Harry Potter” books, with “houses” earning points.

“When you can have a friendly little competition while donating to a worthy cause, not to mention it being a service project for Emma — there’s quite a ripple effect,” Carlson said.

The Gladys Ray Shelter is designed to provide a safe, comfortable and temporary shelter. It is available to people who cannot access other shelter options. Housing and services connections are provided in a welcoming and nonjudgmental environment.

“(We) can serve up to 25 adults males and 10 adult females,” the shelter’s website said. “(This is) a safe respite from the street where people who are homeless can take care of basic human needs daily.”

A free facility, the Gladys Ray Shelter includes the Veteran’s Drop-In Center. The center includes multiple support services, such as referrals to advocacy and help with tasks including making appointments.

“(We are) committed to helping ensure that adequate housing options and resources are available to all guests leaving the emergency shelter,” the website said.

Erdahl hopes to do more charity work in the future.

“It’s fun to see the connection from the essay to this drive,” Carlson said. “How one simple task can do so much and how a sixth grader can do this all. It was a great thing to see her so involved.”

For more information on the Gladys Ray Shelter, call 701-476-4145 or visit its page on the city of Fargo website. The shelter is located at 1519 First Ave. S., Fargo.

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