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Tent City’s founder tells teens to learn to be leaders

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    Leslie

    THE BLADE/MATT THOMPSON
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    Ken Leslie, who coordinates Tent City in Toledo each year for the homeless, talks to a Perrysburg High School class about being a leader and helping others.

    THE BLADE/MATT THOMPSON
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Ken Leslie, a Toledo homeless advocate and 1975 Perrysburg High School graduate, returned to the school Friday to tell students about being a leader, standing up, and achieving balance in life by giving back.

Mr. Leslie was a professional comedian in the 1980s, and then became addicted to drugs and alcohol.

That led him to become homeless.

When he became clean, he founded Tent City, an annual gathering for Toledo’s homeless to show them they are important. At the event, community volunteers spend time with the homeless to try to better understand what it is like to be homeless.

While Mr. Leslie told stories of reaching amazing homeless people at Tent City, he didn’t tell students to go out and help the homeless. Instead, he told them to figure out their own calling to help others. Tent City this year is Oct. 24-26.

“You are the most powerful people I’ve ever met,” he said to a class Friday. “You are powerful leaders, with the ability to make miracles.”

He talked about how good it is to help others.

“It took someone who cared to tell us what we needed to hear,” Cameron Steel, a junior student, said.

Principal Michael Short said the students appreciate Mr. Leslie coming back to talk because he can connect with them.

Perrysburg Schools is hosting a Hunger Banquet at the high school Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The event is free, but attendees are encouraged to donate to Tent City. The banquet will simulate how food is available throughout the world. The public is welcome, and students can receive extra credit for going.

There is also a “Jackets Giving Jackets” drive that collects donated used or new jackets. Jackets can be dropped off at the high school or during the football game Oct. 17.

Businesses, churches, youth groups, and schools are asked to donate, volunteer, or spend the night at this year’s Tent City. There will be an End Veteran Homelessness walk Oct. 24 at 6 p.m., and the event continues over three days.

Mr. Leslie encouraged students to act.

“I want them to know everyone is a leader,” he said. “They already have the ability to be inside them, and if they do, they will have balance in life.”

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.

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