Student rallies community to help out Goodwill

by Kathy Blake

North Mecklenburg High School student Eli Haraldsson, 16, will hold a community donation drive to benefit the Goodwill on April 14. (Courtesy Tina Haraldsson)

CHARLOTTE – It started as a school assignment, but it’s turning into something more.

Sixteen-year-old Eli Haraldsson’s International Baccalaureate program at North Mecklenburg High School requires him to complete a year-long project as a sophomore, one with extensive research, record-keeping and a lengthy essay. Students must set goals, select sources, apply the information and give a presentation in front of teachers on May 1.

For Eli, choosing a topic was as easy as reading the newspaper. And it provided him with his necessary IB community service hours, as well.

“One day, my mom and I were reading the paper, and we saw a front-page article about how Goodwill is helping the community, and it caught my eye,” he said. “We just went from there.”

Eli and his mother, Tina Haraldsson, read about Goodwill’s policy of training and hiring people with disabilities, or who may have had a run-in with the law and need a second chance.

“I told him, ‘There you go. You could make a project out of that and make people aware of what they do,’” she said.

When the South Boulevard Goodwill store was destroyed by arson in February, it gave Eli an idea that would be good for the company, and his project. He decided to help.

The Haraldssons live in Mt. Isle Harbor, and on April 14, Eli will hold a Goodwill drive at the neighborhood clubhouse, 2407 Mt. Isle Harbor Drive. Goodwill is brining a trailer and already has supplied Eli with 1,600 fliers to pass out to homes and businesses.

“I thought this was going to be hard, but once I started doing it, it turned out being not so bad,” said Eli, who’s already completed a 3,500-word essay on his work.

Some of his classmates, he said, will be on hand to help with the drive. He will record the event with a video camera, and use the footage as part of his presentation.

Tina Haraldsson said they also have set up a website for their neighbors to keep track of Eli’s project, view updates on the drive and Eli’s progress.

“They (Goodwill) told me that, basically, a successful drive is to fill one entire trailer, so that’s my goal,” said Eli, who also is an IB Ambassador for North Mecklenburg High and plays on the varsity soccer team.

This isn’t Eli’s first experience with giving back to the community. He’s also collected donations for the Second Harvest food bank as part of his school’s IB program. As a sophomore, he’s required to do 40 hours of community service, his mother said.

After high school, Eli said, he wants to pursue something in the medical field in college, maybe in chiropractic or anesthesiology. Meanwhile, the Goodwill project has evolved into more than schoolwork. After studying how the company helps people in need, he’s turned his good deed into a mission.

“I want to help. I might do this every year, just to give back to the community,” Eli said. “I want to make it a tradition in my neighborhood. That would be pretty cool.”

Want to help?

Eli’s community donation drive for Goodwill takes place April 14, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Mt. Isle Community Clubhouse, 2407 Mt. Isle Harbor Drive.

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