What began as a request for warm clothing to support students at two area schools grew into an outpouring of donations that will benefit students at 10 Baltimore County Public Schools!
The drive began when students returned to Loch Raven and Parkville High schools after the holiday break without suitable clothing for the dangerously low temperatures. They were not going without coats because of “fashion,” but rather because they did not own or have the means to buy appropriate outerwear. Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, president of Loch Raven Network, spearheaded an appeal for volunteers and donations to assist students in need at Loch Raven High School and Parkville High School. The call for action was echoed on NextDoor and Facebook, and then picked up more social media exposure and volunteers through Jen Cox, director of Empower4Life, a nonprofit that runs programs for schoolchildren living in homeless shelters.
From Jan. 5 to Jan. 7, hundreds upon hundreds of coats, hats, gloves and clothing, as well as dozens of bags of toiletries, poured into the office of Empower4life in Towson. Volunteers spent more than eight hours just sorting and organizing the donations.
It became clear that what they collected could help many more students than they had originally hoped. Chris Ratych, school nurse at Parkville High School, was instrumental in expanding the number of schools benefiting from the event, coordinating what was needed most and where. Supplies were packaged and delivered where student needs were identified at elementary, middle and high schools around Baltimore County on Jan. 9.
“With over 50,000 students in Baltimore County Public Schools living in severe poverty, thousands homeless and experiencing food insecurity, and 90 schools where the poverty rate is over 50 percent of all students, the need is tremendous,” said Taylor-Mitchell. “We are so grateful to Empower4life for providing their office space and for the donors who gave to this drive.”
This drive has ended, but our community can continue to help students in need by supporting the ongoing work of the terrific local nonprofits that made it happen.
Empower4life (www.empower4lifemd.org) is in need of new twin sheets and blankets for beds in homeless shelters; volunteers for educational programs in areas of health and wellness, and financial support. Contact Casey Stockton: email@example.com.
Loch Raven Network: (www.lochravennetwork.org) always welcomes monetary donations for its mission of providing nutritious nonperishable food and toiletries to stock school offices at Loch Raven and Parkville High schools. It also needs a volunteer knowledgeable in graphic design. Contact Jan Bahner: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Food for Thought program offers weekend backpacks of nonperishable food to students experiencing hunger and food insecurity throughout the school year. It now provides food for more than 135 students in 18 schools in Baltimore County. Contact Monica Butta: email@example.com.
On a related note, we should all keep in mind that many local food banks see a spike in donations around the holidays, but supplies are nearly depleted by February. It is always the right time to help our neighbors in need!