It may be hard to believe but by the end of school last year, there were 27 Homeless children in our schools! This is why we have partnered with the Sedona School District in hopes of making a difference in their lives. Tell the truth. Wouldn’t you want to help buy clothes for a homeless child especially one who may or may not ever have gone shopping nor made a choice as to what they wanted? It was either hand-me-downs or donation from a church or other organizations.
So that is exactly what we did. We took them shopping! You can imagine how the emotions ran high when our volunteers met at J C Penny’s to meet the school bus. Six students, ages 6 to 14 years old disembarked to open arms and huge smiles of eager ladies wanting to make their wishes come true.
The children were taken “one adult per child” on a buying spree that included a pair of jeans or pants; two shirts or blouses; a pair of shorts or a skirt; underwear, and most importantly athletic shoes. Athletic shoes rather than flats, sandals or loafers because they are not only more substantial, but also allow the students can participate in gym and other athletic activities.
A side note about J C Penny’s, they were so terrific to us! It started with opening the store an hour before the normal time. This allowed our ladies to figure out where the smaller children’s clothes were plus to locate the dressing rooms and the bathrooms. On top of that, Penny’s gave us 25% off the total bill which made our money go so much further. We cannot say enough thankyou’s to Penny’s, Geovani, the manager and her staff! Everyone went above and beyond to be helpful, friendly and to make it a special time for the children.
As the children were checking out, a small hygiene kit was placed into their bags. It included a toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, and the older children got deodorant. This was a belated idea, but it was such a good one! So thanks to Cheri Baldwin who went to the Dollar Store and purchased these items. Next year, we’ll plan ahead on this because sadly, there are children that have to “share a toothbrush.” Most, if not all, of these children may never have gone to a dentist or an ophthalmologist. Our ladies deemed that three of the children, who came that Saturday, definitely needed a vision test and most likely glasses. After all, if you can’t see the board that the teacher is writing on....We’re working on this!
Here are a couple of comments from that day: “My little shopper, age eight, was curious about whether Men's and Women's dressing rooms have any differences between them other than urinals in the Men’s.” Helen’s answer was that she didn't think that that was true, so then the kiddo, who was appalled said, "Well, then do men pee on the floor?"Helen Knoll
And, from our volunteers: “It was so endearing to see and hear an older sibling complimenting her little sister on her clothing choices.” “The children were excited and eager, but they also were polite and grateful.” Carrie Funk
“The students were thrilled with their new clothes as evidenced by their wanting to wear them ‘right now’”! Cheryl Christenson
When we finished shopping, we treated the students to lunch at McDonald’s, which was an experience for us “retired ladies.” After the orders were taken, off we went to the children’s section with the slides and the thingamajigs? I must confess that the noise level on occasion crescendoed to just shy of a “sonic boom” to the point that you couldn’t hear yourself talking. However, the children not only got rid of a huge amount of energy, but also left with full tummies in time to get back on the bus and head home.
So what exactly is ‘home’ for these children? It can be two or more families living within one house because of loss of housing, economic hardship or similar reasons. These children have access to a bathroom and a kitchen. Some do not. Two of Sedona’s homeless families live in “dispersed” camping and have to move every 15 days, and one mother and her son live in a van. we have been assured that, for the most part, these families all have jobs but are definitely the “working poor.”
Why did we feel that this project was so important? We felt that the by dressing students in new shoes and clothes, they could be more excited about going back to school and more eager to learn. They could walk into a new classroom feeling not like an ‘outsider’ but confident that they belong. And we all do know that education and love of learning and good socialization can help lead these children on to a successful life, and hopefully begin to break the cycle of homelessness. That is the intention of Operation School Bell, and everyone who was involved in this special day with these special kids, feel it was a success! Stay tuned for ‘phase two’!
SedonaKind PO Box 3059 Sedona, AZ 86340
SedonaKind meets the 3rd Friday of each Month from September to May. We meet at the Sedona Library in West Sedona at 10:00a.m. We ask that only fully Covid vaccinated individuals attend.