Fourteen-year-old Katie Boissoneau is a typical teenager, but her compassion stretches beyond her years. Growing up with a loving family and a private Catholic school education, it can be hard to imagine life without the basics that we take for granted.

A series of hurricanes, fires, and local disasters across the Eastern Territory became an eye-opening experience for Katie. Her father Keith, a longtime supporter of The Salvation Army and its Emergency Disaster Services (EDS),is passionate about helping those in need. Together, the Boissoneaus created a community service project that not only empowers youth, but can also be easily replicated in schools nationwide.

This winter, Katie gathered 20 of her classmates at Saint Bernard’s Central Catholic High School in Fitchburg to assemble 1,000 Emergency Disaster Relief Kits for The Salvation Army in just a few hours. Students filled each kit with a bar of soap, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, tissues, bandages, nail clippers, socks, water, sanitizing wipes, granola bar, and other necessities.

“Days before our project, I learned that our family and my classmates knew some of the 40 people who were displaced from their homes in a nearby 4-alarm fire,” Katie said. “This project really hit close to home. Putting together these kits reminds us of the most important items that people need every day.” People often think The Salvation Army is an organization that only responds to disasters, when in fact they are in communities before, during, and after disaster strikes. The EDS team is often the first in a community and the last to leave.

“The Salvation Army strives to bring hope and healing to people who find themselves in the midst of extremely difficult situations. Those impacted by sudden disasters, existing homelessness, or daily crises require immediate resources for safety, care, and support,” said Katie’s proud dad Keith Boissoneau. “All of these kids are fortunate, so it’s important to show them why giving back is a gift in itself.”