Local teen gives from heart to help homeless

Filled with a heaping helping of holiday spirit, 17-year-old Jessica Peterson delivered gifts to 58 homeless adults living at Stepping Stone Emergency Housing shelter in Anoka.

St. Francis High School senior Jessica Peterson put her heart and soul – and a month’s paycheck – into helping the homeless this holiday season. Photo submitted

St. Francis High School senior Jessica Peterson put her heart and soul – and a month’s paycheck – into helping the homeless this holiday season. Photo submitted

Peterson made the delivery at noon on Christmas Eve, lifting spirits and sharing holiday cheer where cheer is sometimes hard to come by.

“I’ve been trying to do more volunteering, but with school and work and everything it’s hard to find time, so I thought at least I could buy some gifts for the less fortunate,” Peterson said.

And so, when she received her November paycheck from the Riverdale Taco Bell in Coon Rapids where she works after school, Peterson decided to use that money to buy gifts for the 58 homeless adults living at Stepping Stone.

“My check was $400 and I had more money saved, too, so I used all of it to buy sweat pants, socks and snacks for each person,” she said.

Peterson packaged each gift and made personalized gift tags for each one.

A senior at St. Francis High School, Peterson said after graduation she plans to attend the University of Minnesota and hopes someday to be a kindergarten teacher.

“I also plan to keep on giving and helping somehow. This was just my way of helping this Christmas,” she said.

About Stepping Stone

Stepping Stone Emergency Housing works with a mission to “provide emergency housing and support to adults experiencing homelessness.”

Stepping Stone is the only homeless shelter in Anoka County that accepts single homeless adults. It began serving homeless adults in 1994 under the management of Shiloh Ministries and in 2005 received non-profit status with a board of directors appointed in 2007.

In September 2012, Stepping Stone moved from its 16-bed facility on Ferry Street in Anoka to the Cronin Building on the former state hospital grounds on 4th Avenue; the property is now owned by Anoka County and is where the county’s Rum River Human Services Center is located.

Stepping Stone is now able to serve up to 60 single adults. The facility is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week and also provides mentoring and life skills training in efforts to promote long-term life success.

To learn more about Stepping Stone visit www.SteppingStoneEH.org.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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