CROWN POINT — While listening to Z107.1-FM one day, Mari Ewell heard Jim Chancellor on the radio talking about homeless veterans.
The preschool and prekindergarten teacher wanted to bring a piece of Chancellor's mission to her school. She did.
In three weeks, students in preschool to third grade raised $182, which was used to purchase toiletries, gloves, socks and scarves for American Veterans Collection, Inc. The school also donated clothing and $150 to the organization.
"I am so appreciative of what's happening," said Chancellor, founder of the nonprofit.
When he walked in the school's gym, where students, teachers and administrators gather for assemblies, he was in awe.
"Oh my goodness gracious," the Vietnam veteran said when he first saw the donation pile. "This is overwhelming ... wow."
Principal Lama Almoazen said the cause was perfect, as it aligned with the schools theme for the month: neighborhood.
"We consider these (veterans) our neighbors because they come from Northwest Indiana," Almoazen told her students Friday morning.
"This is our duty, as Muslims, remember. Our mission as Indiana Horizon Academy is leadership, achievement, excellence and helping your community and community service."
Almoazen said the school hosts an assembly around a theme every month, where students usually receive certificates and prizes for achievements.
Though the students are young, Almoazen said the school tries to instill the importance of helping your community.
"The kids really felt so good about helping," she said.
Ewell said why her students might not understand why people are homeless, they were excited to participate in the donation drive.
"I am so grateful that we were able to help because it's a wonderful cause and its part of our mission," she said.
Chancellor said the items, which will take him two trips to his truck to load, will go to struggling veterans.
Though Chancellor has been helping veterans get back on their feet since 1970, his latest venture is a base camp, designed to give struggling veterans a weekend of relaxation.
The camp is made to give the veterans a place to go, but to also help them feel comfortable to seek help.
"Trust is huge. If they don't trust you, they won't talk to you. They're just going to put up a wall," Chancellor said. "I want them to trust us."
Buses pick up veterans and take them to the base camp, which is hosted at the Calumet Township Multi-Purpose Center, 1900 W. 41st Ave. in Gary.
Camps are scheduled Jan. 18-19 and Feb. 22-23.
"Before they leave, I want to talk to them and say, 'How can we help you?'" he said. "Here is the thing, I can't help you, I can help you help you, but I can't help you."
When they leave, Chancellor gives the veterans cellphones so they can stay in contact with the organization.
"We really appreciate everything you guys have done. I can't begin to tell you how many smiles this will bring to the veterans when we give them these gifts from you," Chancellor said to the students on Friday.