The Importance and Challenges of Donation Drives For Homeless Youth During The Pandemic

April 1 2021

StandUp for Kids - Silicon Valley

Although so many things were different last year, one thing was not... Homeless Youth Need Support! 

StandUp For Kids - Silicon Valley (#SUFKSV) is completely self-funded and therefore relies on the generosity of our community. Due to the pandemic, our monetary donations were down as we weren't able to have our regular fundraisers or our popular Charity Dinner. But that didn’t discourage us! We restlessly tried to bring in money to continue our fight to #endyouthhomelessness and keep our doors of our Outreach Center “The Village” open to one of the most vulnerable and often overlooked groups: Unaccompanied Homeless Youth.

For many years we have built partnerships with other organizations (like Girls Scouts, Silicon Valley Pride, 3 Helping Hands, community members and corporations) to ensure our pantry is stocked with snacks, and hygiene supplies are readily available for our youth to survive while on the streets. This past year we welcomed Imperial Sprinkler Supply to the family.

One of our biggest donation drive supporters are local schools. StandUp for Kids is especially grateful to the Washington Open Elementary School community in Santa Clara for their continued support and endless generosity. We were part of their virtual Giving Tree in December. A total donation of $615 in gift cards (restaurants/retail stores), as well as families who were donating directly to get matching contributions from their companies, were making a big difference during the Holiday season to support homeless youth.

Adapting to the pandemic situation, we also had a couple of Zoom calls with local schools, like the leadership team of Castlemont Elementary School in Campbell. Their 4th grade teacher Andrea Chinbong reached out to us to organize a donation drive. After a presentation of what StandUp for Kids does 5 days a week, and showing a short video of a walk-through of The Village, there was a moment of silence, a moment to reflect and process what they had just heard.

The 4th and 5th graders learned first hand from a long term volunteer, Jeannette Weedermann, that at any given day about 1000 young people are living on the streets in our area. The brutal reality is that there is unfortunately not enough affordable housing for these teenagers. Homeless youth have no simple answers to ordinary questions they face on a daily basis, like: Where can I sleep? How do I keep myself clean? Where can I go to the bathroom? Where do I get food and clothes that fit me? Where can I do homework or get Wifi?

The struggle is real. No child should be burdened with housing, food or accessing health care. The audience of school kids realized that there are so many kids out there - just a bit older than them - who are worse off at any given time. So they started talking about being grateful for the things that others don’t have, and expressed being happy about the existence of The Village:

"I think StandUp for Kids...great work being done, by helping those who don't have anyone else to look up to." -fourth grader

"The Village is one place where homeless kids can be themselves and have some normalcy in their lives." -fifth grader

StandUp for Kids thinks it’s also important to inform and bring awareness for misconceptions about homelessness. It’s often NOT their fault and it is beyond their ability to prevent or change the situation they are in. Everyone should have a fair chance to live fully, and have access to basic needs and resources.

Excited and full of energy, these elementary school kids wanted to help make a difference in their community to someone's life. Another fifth grader had the same desire:

"I think we should help homeless kids, so we don't have people living in the streets." 

Medical and scientific research has proven without doubt that giving to other people makes you feel good, and these kids and teachers of Castlemont were on the go: from a promotion video, to signs, and online flyers to collect much needed snack items. The outcome was that this drive became our most successful one of the year, with car loads full of granola bars, cookies, beef jerky, pop top soups, nuts - just to name a few. 

Thank you to the leadership team of Castlemont School, your support and passion touched the hearts of many homeless youth. There is no us without you. To close with the wise words of yet another fifth grader: 

"You need to have kindness to do this sort of thing...and I think we all have that." 

If interested in supporting a donation drive or finding ways to get involved, please contact us, and follow us on:  Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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