Thousands of homeless students in Los Angeles County will be walking into the classroom with brand new backpacks filled with quality school supplies and healthy snacks, thanks to a community of supporters and LACOE's leadership.
Rainy weather did not dampen the spirit of volunteers who helped unload and distribute boxes of donated school items at the LACOE warehouse on April 19. Feed the Children sent 4,000 backpacks filled with school supplies and nearly 8,000 protein bars. Supplybank.org donated additional school supplies packed in 125 tote bags. All the items were unloaded at LACOE, then picked up by the 38 participating school districts and charter schools across the county.
"These items, so desperately needed to support the nearly 72,000 homeless youth across Los Angeles County, came and left our warehouse the same day," said project coordinator and LACOE's homeless program consultant Melissa Schoonmaker.
Tam Nguyen, a volunteer from the Lynwood Unified School District, said being homeless takes a big toll on kids in the classroom, and "something that may seem simple, like a backpack, means a lot to the students and goes a long way."
"Some of the students are orphans or have parents who are incarcerated, and some ran away from home. They are in various situations, and having people support and advocate for them makes a big difference," Nguyen said.
Another volunteer, Katherine Rodriguez from the Rowland Unified School District, said she feels grateful for the opportunity to help prepare the students for school. "It's nice to see them in school sporting the backpacks. It's heartwarming."
On delivery day, rain started to pour as the Feed the Children truck pulled into the LACOE parking lot. Schoonmaker and the volunteers had to move the pick-up location to a covered area next to the warehouse.
"Our amazing LACOE warehouse staff came to the rescue and helped make it happen," said Schoonmaker, who was happy to see everyone come together -- donors, volunteers, districts and LACOE staff -- to help students experiencing homelessness.
"My heart is full! Today was a day that reminds me of why I love my job," she said
For more information about the project, contact Schoonmaker at 562/401-5397 or Schoonmaker_Melissa@lacoe.edu.
Photo 1: In photo (from left): Tam Nguyen (Lynwood USD), Melissa Schoonmaker, Tim Burton and Katherine Rodriguez (Rowland USD).
Photo 2: Volunteers help unload pallets of backpacks and school supplies.
Photo 3: The truck sent by Feed the Children parked outside the warehouse, where volunteers unloaded the donated items.