Originally Published: November 6, 2018 6:28 p.m.
The Family Resource Center in the Humboldt Unified School District is clean and bright, with clothing racks filled and colorful backpacks hanging at the entrance ready for any youngster in need.
Adult clothing hang on some of the racks, others contain baby outfits.
“This is for anybody in the school district who needs it,” said Helene Tonnemacher, Family Resource specialist and Homeless Liaison.
Often when a family has suffered trauma such as a house fire, Tonnemacher asks the sizes of all family members and gathers together a package of clothing and blankets. Project Linus and other groups donate quilts, afghans, and “silkies” to the district. One woman creates stuffed animals that go to children.
She makes sure each school site has backpacks filled with school supplies for new students registering with the district who may not have their own. Twice a year, she switches out the clothing racks from summer to winter clothes and vice versa.
Occasionally, the Center will receive gift cards from places like Walmart. Tonnemacher uses most of the cards for teenagers, something the Center has fewer of.
“I work closely with the high school students who are in homeless situations,” she said, adding that she checks in with about 10 students once a week to find out if they are safe and doing well. About 50 verified families with children enrolled in district schools fall under federal definition of “homeless.”
Tonnemacher works with the senior students filling out financial reports for scholarships and college applications. “They need to know there’s a bigger picture in life. The parents sometimes are just trying to make it,” she said.
A rack of clothes for younger siblings also doubles as spare clothing for preschoolers at Bright Futures nearby who might have an accident and find themselves without a spare pair of pants.
“Everything comes in washed and ready to go,” Tonnemacher said. “If we have overflow, we give it to Stepping Stones.”
Grandparents raising grandchildren also utilize the Resource Center. Tonnemcher calls them a “lost group.” Many are raising children in a stable environment but are on a fixed income.
The Firefighters Angels, Kiwanis, and MI Windows and Doors help with the school supplies and stuffing backpacks. The Angels return at the winter holidays to help with gifts.
The Center received more than 300 coats of varying sizes on Oct. 23 through the Coats for Kids giveaway conducted by Prescott Sunrise Lions; Knights of Columbus; Walmart; Mandalay Homes; Target; Wells Fargo, Chase, and Foothills banks; and Engrained.
What still is needed, Tonnemacher said, is high school clothing, in particular, hoodies, and any size of jeans, especially for boys.
Earlier this summer the Yarnell area experienced monsoon flooding and the school in Kirkland suffered water damage. Tonnemacher said she was excited to be able to share extra coats with those students.
She and Kelly Lee, Family and Community Engagement coordinator, offer information on all kinds of local resources and help for families who are struggling. Lee also coordinates classes, workshops and support groups.
AP Academy students at Bradshaw Mountain High School are opening a student resource center at the school site as part of their capstone project. They are looking for new or gently used donations, and will begin accepting clothing and school supplies Monday, Nov. 5, in Room F107 or at the front office.
“It’s hard for them to get over here (Resource Center), and they don’t like to ask for help,” Lee said. “Whatever the need is, we’ll help or find somebody who will.”
The Family Resource Center is located in the HUSD campus at 6411 N. Robert Road, across from the buses and Transportation Facility.