Assistance League should be very proud of the impact that OSB Teen Team has had on homeless high school students receiving our vouchers. So far, about 40 vouchers have been redeemed and paid through ALB. A total of 100 vouchers have been issued and in the coming months the remaining 60 vouchers will be used. Each voucher is worth $125 at Lakeway Fred Meyer, where the high school student can go shopping on their own to purchase school appropriate clothing.
When Nanci Zander, Teen Team Chair, asked the Bellingham School District Homeless Liaison Coordinators for some feedback on the program they were more than happy to share the following stories:
*** A 15 year old young man and I went shopping. He is a student who attends Home Port, a transitional alternative school for at-risk youth of Whatcom County. This student is one who is perceived as unwilling to seek and receive resources, although by many people’s standards, he is in great need of support. When I went to meet with him to talk about his needs, he was open and willing to meet up for some new clothes.
This student, without a cell phone, wrote down my number and our shopping date and time on paper, knowing that this student is often moving to a new place each night I knew there was a chance that my information and our appointment could be misplaced. On my walk over to our appointment at Fred Meyer, an unfamiliar number was flashing on my phone. It was the student I was meeting calling from the Fred Meyer customer service desk where we were to meet, and he was early! We enjoyed nice chats about his life, him offering me more information about his life than he did previously. This new information helped me to connect him with new resources.
This particular student said a few things that I thought were profound: “I haven’t gone clothes shopping since I was 12. This jacket will be great at keeping me dry when I have to walk home on Sundays when the bus isn’t in service. I am excited to have pants that fit me. I can’t remember the last time I had the chance to get pants in my size.”
***I went shopping recently with a young woman and we had a lovely time getting to know one another better. She had been kicked out of her home and is now living in the pad. This student had not always had the luxury of purchasing items that she wanted and was thrilled to pick clothing items out in colors she liked and felt good wearing! She was so grateful for the opportunity and I had to push her a few times to spend her entire budget. I continued to reassure her that the members of Assistance League wanted to treat her. The brightest moment with her was right when the cashier said that our transaction was over, and I saw her entire face LIGHT UP!
***I took a new student in our district shopping and his younger sisters also happened to be there with him. The whole family came together to pick out items for their oldest brother/son and found joy in picking out new warm clothes. What I found to be particularly delightful about that experience was that at our last Operation School Bell clothing, his younger sisters and brother, got to shop and he was pushing the cart and helping them pick out new clothing. Their mom, continually thanked me for making the connection to Operation School Bell and Teen Team. Being able to immediately show families and students how we can support them with new clothes is such a great way to begin building a relationship with them. Thank you for that opportunity.
These heartwarming stories of how we are helping students and families in our community is certainly remarkable and very timely following the recent holiday season. We are making a difference in their lives.
Nanci Zander, Teen Team Chair, Operation School Bell