Morgan Park High School (MPHS) Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) Instructor Sgt. First Class Otha Davis died unexpectedly last year on March 11.
As the anniversary of his death approaches, students at the school have been hosting a collection drive to benefit others who have served their country.
Through Friday, Feb. 28, MPHS is collecting household items for care packages to donate to veterans living at local nursing facilities.
Items can be dropped off at MPHS, 1744 W. Pryor Ave., or several other local sites, all to honor a longtime school employee who was beloved by students.
“Although he was an JROTC instructor, and of course the first thing that you think is military, he was really about building them up to be leaders, building them up to have positive interactions in their school,” said MPHS Principal Femi Skanes. “He built them up to be a part of their school community. He meant a lot to the kids. A lot of the kids saw him as a father figure.”
Skanes announced the service project at a MPHS local school council meeting in January, and the collection began in early February.
Needed items include socks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, hair brushes, flushable wipes, notepads and playing cards.
Donation boxes are set up throughout the school, as well as at the MPHS Catholic Youth Ministry Center, 1825 W. Monterey Ave.; the 19th Ward Office, 10400 S. Western Ave.; the Chicago Police Department 22nd District station, 1900 W. Monterey Ave.; The Stage Barber and Salon, 2330 W. 111th St.; and Oakdale Covenant Church, 9440 S. Vincennes Ave.
According to Skanes, regarding the donation of the care packages, the school has been in contact with Belhaven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 11401 S. Oakley Ave., Smith Village, 2320 W. 113th Pl.; Southpoint Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 1010 W. 95th St.; and Presidential Pavilion, 8001 S. Western Ave.
On March 11, Allstate/Fresh Films, which recently awarded the MPHS JROTC program a $2,500 grant, will film students as they prepare packages and deliver them to veterans.
Skanes said student leaders of the JROTC program are spearheading the project. She hopes it creates multiple positive effects.
“As part of their leadership development and their community-service involvement, this project is to honor the life of Sgt. First Class Davis,” Skanes said. “And, it’s also for the students to develop those leadership skills that he would have wanted them to develop—and then how to give back and engage in their community.”
Skanes has a donation box in her office, and several bags near the box were full of donations, she said. A box is also located in the school’s main office.
Skanes said she is grateful for the support of the drive as it entered its final week.
“We’re asking the community to donate. We’re getting a lot of donations from our school community as well,” Skanes said. “If anybody wants to stop by any of those locations, we are more than welcoming.”
For information, call the school at (773) 535-2550.