This is an excerpt of On Assignment, education writer Theresa Harrington's blog on Contra Costa County schools. Read more and post comments at IBABuzz.com/onassignment. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa.
The Mt. Diablo school district's Homeless Outreach Program for Education -- or HOPE -- provides services to homeless youth throughout the school year. And in the weeks leading up to the winter holidays, the program seeks donations to help make the season happier for homeless children and foster youth, whose parents may not be able to buy them gifts or purchase special foods for a holiday feast.
Here is more (excerpted) information about donations needed, provided by James Wogan, who directs the program:
"I am writing to let you know about children in our community who do not have enough to eat, adequate clothes to wear to school, or a predictable place to live. As the holiday season approaches, please accept this letter as an invitation to learn more about our local homeless children and foster youth. I would like to ask that you do two things. A) please consider making a contribution to homeless children and foster youth and B) please forward this letter or email to five or more people. Thank you so much!
Last year, the Mt. Diablo Unified Homeless Outreach Program for Education (Mt. Diablo HOPE) served 549 homeless students and Mt. Diablo Foster Youth Services served 236 foster youth. That's 785 vulnerable children who need our support! Most of the homeless children we served lived with mothers and fathers who were one paycheck away from homelessness, lost their jobs, and had no choice but to live in motels, cars, homeless shelters, churches, synagogues, the Winter Nights program, or double up with friends or family. We saw an increase in unaccompanied teenagers (58) who lived with the families of friends. Homeless children and foster youth with disabilities were especially vulnerable and received extra support. Mt. Diablo Unified has great success supporting foster youth -- we have the highest graduation rate in California (93 percent) -- however, the holidays are often a difficult time for foster youth who live in group homes and with foster families. Your contribution will go a long way toward making the holidays a little brighter for our children.
Homeless children and foster youth reside in communities and attend schools throughout our school district; we serve homeless students and foster youth from Walnut Creek, Clayton, Pleasant Hill, Concord, and Bay Point. People may not realize how widespread our populations are because they are not visible in the community ... We are grateful to the teachers of Mt. Diablo Unified for their compassion, hard work, and the excellent instruction that they provide for our students every school day ...
Please consider donating gift cards (from) Safeway, Target or Kohl's. You may send donations by check or gift cards to: Elsa Dalpiaz, Secretary, Mt. Diablo Homeless Outreach Program for Education, 2730 Salvio St. Concord, CA 94519 or drop donations off with Lori Amenta at the Mt. Diablo Unified District Office, 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord, CA. Please make checks payable to 'Mt. Diablo HOPE.' Please indicate if you would like a receipt for tax purposes ... This year, we are going online to connect generous donors with recipients. If you or your organization would like to sponsor an individual family, please register online http://mdusdhope.volunteerhub.com. To sponsor a family, the minimum contribution that we suggest is $150. By the way, we don't use the term 'adopt a family' for the holidays because the word adopt can have loaded meaning for foster youth.
Last year, the small act of sharing this letter resulted in contributions from all over the world.
Thank you for your consideration!
James C. Wogan, LCSW, Administrator, School Linked Services & The School Linked Services Team"
I have seen Wogan and his team busily packing up items for needy families in classrooms at Olympic High, and I have interviewed families assisted by this program who say they are very grateful for the help they receive. It is an effort that seems to grow each year, as more people find out about it and contribute -- and as the number of needy families also seems to increase.