In a polished community like Newport Beach, issues such as hunger and homelessness can be tough for children to grasp.
But Allison Rabin, a mother of two, has aimed to give youngsters a chance to learn about such topics and to make a difference.
For more than six years she has volunteered in the Parent Faculty Organization at Harbor View Elementary School in Corona del Mar, which both her children attend.
As the group's vice president of community outreach for two years, she has been able to create programs in which Harbor View students and their parents can help organizations such as Irvine-based Families Forward, which assists homeless and low-income families with counseling, housing and other services.
"By doing these community programs, the hope is that [these issues] no longer become a scary thing," Rabin said.
Editor's note: This is an installment of Unsung Heroes, a new annual feature that highlights otherwise overlooked members of the community.
In November, each class at Harbor View gathered canned and boxed foods to make a Thanksgiving basket for those in need.
Some Harbor View parents and students also volunteered to drop off the baskets at the Families Forward headquarters to help feed some of the 900 families the organization serves across the county.
"Allison involving the entire elementary school goes beyond just feeding families," said Kim Strohm, director of communications at Families Forward. "It's also a teachable moment for the teachers and families in the classroom who learn that by just bringing in cans of food, someone else can have a Thanksgiving meal, which is what we take for granted."
This month, the school also participated in the second year of Rabin's Angel Tree program, in which wish lists from children and parents from Families Forward were written on ornament tags hung from the Christmas tree in Harbor View's multipurpose room. This is the first year the program has been coordinated with Families Forward.
Students could take the tags home and later return to the tree with items the families had asked for, such as shoes, pajamas and gift cards for gas or groceries.
"It's a way to understand and create empathy in a comfortable way," Rabin said. "It can be scary for kids to think about homelessness and people who are hungry."
Now, on occasion, when Rabin's family goes out for dinner and walks home afterward, passing homeless people near Coast Highway, she sees her kids handing them leftovers without fear or hesitation.
"We live in an area with so much wealth, and most of us are not wanting or needing many things," Rabin said. "But I'm proud to be a part of a community that wants to take the time to help others."
Alex Chan, email@example.com