GREENVILLE — Say the word “homeless,” and the mind conjures up images derelicts; old, haggard, living beneath bridges, maybe, like trolls from a Grimm’s fairy tale. What doesn’t come to mind are children, bright-eyed, happy American children.
But they, too, are all too often among the area’s most needy. According to Linda VanHouten — who works with several special needs programs in
Greenville Public Schools — about 200 students, in Greenville, are currently technically homeless. Some live in cars, some with the families of friends, others float from place to place, all while trying to attend classes, to get through school.
Relying heavily on the free or reduced school lunch programs, these students are sometimes hard-pressed to find adequate nutrition during the summer months.
Fortunately, there are some summer food service programs available to help. Not surprisingly, these programs are frequently strapped for cash.
One group of area women, however, believes nobody should have to go hungry, especially not this “close to home.” They decided to try to do something to make sure nobody does.
The United Methodist Women, of the First United Methodist Church in Greenville, recently held their “Colors of Summer” fashion show and dessert to raise funding for the Opportunities for Success program
Though the show and dessert were free, a free-will offering brought it $1,011 for the program.
According to Elaine Pendrick, who helped organize the show, the Opportunities for Success program is among the area’s most worthy charities and does a great deal to help ensure every child an equal chance at a thriving academic career regardless of economic circumstances.
“This program has helped children,” Pendrick said. “I would like the word to get out about this.”
This year alone, the program helped with transportation costs for economically disadvantaged students, provided shoes, glasses, food and even cash for use toward rent and dental bills. It also assisted some children with costs related to medication and required correspondence courses.
VanHouten points out that what little money the program has is all used toward assisting children.
“We have two feeding programs this summer,” VanHouten said. “One for the county and one for Greenville. We ended (this school year) with 200 homeless students, spent over $7000 in helping families with food, clothing, medical bills, transportation, tutoring, utility bills, partial rent payments, extra curricular activity expenses and school supplies, and we helped over 70 families.”
For more information about this year’s summer food service programs, call (616) 225-1000.