Monday, October 19, 2009

Formerly deaf teen helps homeless keep warm

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formerly deaf teen

Born into a world without sound, a young Folsom girl overcame her disability and now helps others.

Elizabeth Cocker, 14, was born deaf. When she was about 7, she received cochlear implants that allowed her to hear. Now, she works to help the homeless.

“I’m making scarves and blankets for the homeless and we’re trying to keep them warm during the winter,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for three or four years.”

Cocker also enlists the help of others. As a home-schooled student, she inspires other home-schoolers to help.

On Thursday, she visited the Folsom Cordova Charter School, located inside Theodore Judah Elementary School on Dean Way in Folsom. There she spoke to more than 20 kindergarten through third-grade home-schooled children about her project and to enlist their aid. The charter school serves Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer and Amador counties.

Dubbed “The Rag Coat” workshop, after the title of a book, the young students sat quietly while teacher Kristin O’Rourke read the book to them and then broke the group into teams to help make scarves.

“Do you think there are kids out there in our area who don’t have coats?” she asked the students. “The things you are making today will be given to people who are in need of it.”

Wayne Edney, director of the charter school, said the workshops are a way for the home-schooled children to interact with others.

“Elizabeth was one of the first students we had here at the charter school,” Edney said. “It’s nice to see her grow and develop. She’s our guest today (for the workshop).”

While the kids spend most of their time at home, “they have the option of coming here to the (workshops),” Edney said. “Part of the goal we have with home school is to give the kids a sense of community. It’s really nice when (Elizabeth) does stuff like this.”

Her first year doing the blankets, she made 40 of them and an additional 24 scarves. She distributed them through Loaves and Fishes. Once she watched the reaction of those receiving the blankets, she was hooked.

“Seeing them pass out (blankets) at Loaves and Fishes, and how they were so happy, it made me really happy,” Cocker said. “I could tell they feel safe. … They’ll be warmer with the blankets I gave them.”

She typically makes more than 50 blankets now, with the help of family, friends and students like those at the charter school.

For 7-year-old Jadon Turnbull, the workshop was a way to be creative and help others at the same time.

“It’s fun,” he said. “It makes me feel good (to help).”

For 6-year-old J.J. Baranzelli, “The Rag Coat” story and making scarves made him think about others.

“It’s fun to help,” he said, wondering if his family pet might benefit from one of the coats. “My dog has mosquito bites and he thinks they are fleas.”

O’Rourke said there was a need and Cocker decided to fill it.

“People need people,” O’Rourke said, quoting the book she read to the students. “Elizabeth found a way of reaching out. It’s so nice.”

To learn more about the Folsom Cordova K-8 Charter School, call (916) 817-8499.

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MEET ELIZABETH COCKER, 14

What is your favorite book?

“I’ve read so many. My favorite is probably ‘God’s Handmaiden.’”

What are your favorite songs?

“I enjoy listening to country music. My favorite is Carrie Underwood.”

What is your favorite movie?

“I like ‘X-Men.’”

What hobbies do you enjoy?

“I enjoy swimming and playing games with my brothers and sisters and pets.”

What are your favorite TV shows?

“I don’t really watch

television.”