With the weather turning chilly area residents are bundling up against the cold, but some of the state’s younger residents may not have the luxury of a warm winter coat or accessories to guard them against winter’s chill.
The Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens has teamed up with schools and state agencies to host the Heart 2 Heart Hugs Campaign. The campaign is designed to collect new winter items for students across the state who are homeless or in the foster care system.
The program began Wednesday with an event at William Henry Middle School. Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, Dover Mayor Carleton E. Carey, Rep. Bill Carson (D-Smyrna) and several members of the Caesar Rodney Board of Education came together to kick off the campaign. In his speech, Denn spoke about the generosity of Delawareans.
“In Delaware we look out for each other,” he said. “We take care of others.”
The program was started five years ago and originally focused on collecting sleeping bags. Wendy Strauss, executive director for the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, started the program after she saw a need.
“The sleeping bags were something that started when I went to a meeting and heard how many homeless kids there were in Delaware,” Strauss said. “The sleeping bags are one thing that could be consistent. The kids can take them wherever they go, wherever they lay their head.”
The program grew to include winter items and clothing as a way to offer children a sense of warmth and security, Strauss said.
“The whole idea is for the children to know that other people care and are giving them warm thoughts to go with their donations,” Strauss said. “It’s really important for the children to realize that others out there are thinking of them and that they care.”
At William Henry Middle School the campaign is being headed up by the school’s 21st Century Program, an after-school program that offers academic enrichment to students and gets them involved in community outreach, robotics and athletics programs.
The 21st Century Program may be heading up the campaign but every student will be given the chance to participate. Next week students will be sent home with a flyer, explaining to parents what items are needed.
The Heart 2 Heart Hugs Campaign is a good opportunity to teach students, said William Henry Principal Toriano Giddens.
“This campaign is important because we want to teach our students about giving and about how to help others,” he said. “It can be difficult for some students to understand what it’s like to be homeless, so this is one opportunity to teach them about it and make it personal.”
Page 2 of 2 - The campaign is not just limited to schools. The public can also use William Henry or any of the other sites as a drop of location for donations of money, sleeping bags or warm clothing. Requested items include blankets, coats, scarves, pajamas, slippers, sweatpants, hoodies and sweaters.
Donations will be accepted through Tuesday Feb. 13. For a complete list of drop-off sites, visit www.gacec.delaware.gov.
Once the drive is over, foster care caseworkers and homeless liaisons from schools across the state will be allowed to select items for current students and future need. The items will be given to foster parents like Nancy Howard, from Townsend, who received items from the drive for her two foster daughters.
“It’s really a blessing,” she said. “When the kids come in they don’t always come with the luxuries they need. The help is appreciated. It helps us get situated.”