As they, “ooh,” and “ahh,” over the recent donations and full shelves, volunteer Katrina Thomas and her two sons prepare to load bags full of food for students to take home. The HELP (Homeless Education and Literacy Project) Center in the east county sends home bags filled with food for students that are in need on a weekly basis.
“I was surprised that this was an option. The need is massive,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t take that much time to stuff the bags once we get in the flow, only an hour.”
Thomas chose to volunteer to teach her own children the importance of caring for their community. Debbie Haverland, east county HELP outreach worker, agrees that teaching the importance of volunteering at a young age is important. She describes Thomas as, “simply amazing.” Haverland said, “People don’t realize how great the need is.”
She highlighted the need for volunteers to help with organizing their clothing closet and more volunteers to help with preparing bags of food for students. She encourages prospective volunteers, “It can be really rewarding!” The year has just begun and both Haverland and Thomas are amazed at how long the list is of children in need of food for the weekend away from school. Community members who might like to partner or volunteer to stuff bags, or give their time in organizing the clothing closet, are actively sought.
Three years ago, Katey Townsend, LCSD McKinney Vento Program Coordinator, connected with Thomas about volunteer opportunities.
“We posted a volunteer need on our HELP Facebook page, and Katrina was quick to respond to volunteer. The HELP Centers are a place to get “HELP” and be a helper,” she said.
The HELP Program served over 1,112 children throughout Lincoln County School District last year. There are four HELP Centers located in each area of the county, east, west, south and north, serving eligible students and their families in that area. A student and/or their family are considered eligible for the HELP Program if they are living:
- In an emergency or transitional shelter.
In a motel or hotel.
- In cars, campgrounds, RV parks, abandoned buildings or an uninhabitable dwelling.
- With relatives, friends or others due to economic hardship, loss of housing or a similar reason.
The needs vary, however, each area of the county has specific needs that volunteers can fill. Mentors, tutors, helpers for evening events, guest speakers, supply organizers and more are requested. Thomas encourages community members to volunteer, saying, “Do it! You don’t know who you are blessing on the other end.”
Those who are interested in learning more about how they can support the children of LCSD can attend the Trauma Informed Care Training on Thursday, Dec. 5. The training will be held at the Newport High School Boone Center, 322 NE Eads St., from 6-7 p.m. For any questions about the event or to learn more about how to volunteer with the HELP Program, contact Jutta Pearce — [email protected] — 541-574-9419.