This is the second part in a series we will run through December regarding our area’s homeless and needy situation, and how we can help.
■ BY SUE ERWIN
More than 100 plastic containers filled with school supplies and holiday surprises were collected at Boca Grande Lighthouse United Methodist Church recently, and transported by congregation member Becca DeRosa to Kids’ Needs, Inc. in Englewood.
Kids’ Needs Greater Englewood, FL is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to helping school children in our community and their families. Volunteers collect and distribute gently used and new clothing, school supplies, items for personal hygiene and more.
In 2009, during an economic turndown, community activist Ann Dever had a discussion with her neighbor, Marcia Louden, who was the principal at L.A. Ainger Middle School at the time. The two women discussed how the basic needs of children in the community, like having money for lunch and suitable clothing, was becoming more of an issue at the school. It was likely due to one or both parents losing their jobs, as unemployment was high at the time. Ann contacted Tom Dignam of Key Agency to help. In April, 2009, Ann, Tom and a few other generous souls founded Kids’ Needs of Greater Englewood, Inc.
Ann was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 74, and she passed away in October of 2009.
Ann was a member of the Boca Grande Lighthouse United Methodist Church when the organization was founded, and Becca was one of the first volunteers.
“Ann was a very close friend – we were fishing buddies,” DeRosa said. “Her husband (Chuck) donated her flats boat to me after she passed away, and I got my captain’s license. When I take people out fishing, I ask for donations for the organization. So it has kind of come full circle.”
In conjunction with their regular worship services, the church recently held a drive to collect children’s clothing for Kids’ Needs. Parish members were asked to bring to church services new underwear in children’s sizes, and “Undie Sunday” was a huge success.
“We really go through a lot of socks and undergarments,” DeRosa said. “And now that it’s getting cooler at night, we are getting more requests for jackets.”
The organization currently has about 20 volunteers, and that number drops during the summer months. Helpers pick up clothing from the 15 donations boxes around town, and sorters go through it each week and organize the clothing by size.
Englewood residents seeking assistance can come to the site one time per month to shop. The center has everything from socks, shoes, underwear, shirts and sweatshirts to pants and dresses. School supplies and toiletries are also available. Books are free. Families with children who attend a school in Englewood are invited to come to the clothing closet from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday evenings.
Organizers invited families in the community to come to the donation center this past week to collect the holiday shoeboxes as well as shop for clothing and school supplies.h“We work with teachers in local schools, and they refer families to us,” DeRosa said. We are definitely mission-based.”
More than 120 families have been helped so far this year.
Kids’ Needs volunteers are valuable contributors at the Englewood YMCA Back-to-School Bash each fall. The organization also hosts an annual golf tournament at Oyster Creek Golf Club, and proceeds help fund local scholarships.