This is an excerpt of On Assignment, education writer Theresa Harrington's blog on Contra Costa County schools. Read more and post comments at IBABuzz.com/onassignment. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa or Facebook.com/TheresaHarringtonBANG.
As we prepare for the holiday season, the Mt. Diablo school district asks community members to consider donating food, checks, gift cards and/or hoodies and sweatshirts to foster youth and homeless students.
James Wogan, who coordinates the annual program, sent the following email to remind the public of the program:
"Dear Friends, In the spirit of the holiday season, I am writing to ask for your consideration to contribute to a foster youth or homeless student. Last school year, the Mt. Diablo Unified Homeless Outreach Program for Education (HOPE) served 457 homeless students and the Mt. Diablo Unified Foster Youth Services Program (FYS) served 268 foster youth. We help students in kindergarten through high school to overcome trauma and hardship to do well in school. Education is the key to their future. Your contribution will help make the holidays a little brighter for our students.
Donations made by check can be made payable to 'MDUSD HOPE.' Please indicate if you would like a receipt for tax purposes. Donations of Target, Safeway or other gift cards are also helpful because they are easy to distribute and allow students to choose their own gifts.
Please send contributions to:
James Wogan and Elsa Dalpiaz
Mt. Diablo Homeless Outreach Program for Education (MDUSD HOPE)
2730 Salvio St., Concord, CA 94519
'Food insecurity' is a challenge for our homeless families. Homeless students and families especially need open-and-eat food such as power bars and fruit roll-ups. Nonperishable food donations or grocery store gift cards can be dropped off at the Mt. Diablo Unified District Office, 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord, CA 94519.
If you would like to sponsor an individual foster youth or homeless student for the holidays, please go to www.mdusd.k12.ca.us/schoollinkedservices/hope/index.html or www.SignUpGenius.com/go/10C0F49AAAF22A6F85-holiday.
We don't use the words 'adopt-a-family' for the holidays because this is a loaded term for foster youth.
We are also collecting new hoodies and sweatshirts for our homeless students and foster youth. New hoodies and sweatshirts can be dropped off at three locations:
1) The Mt. Diablo Unified District Office, 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord, CA.
2) The Willow Creek Education Center, 1026 Mohr Lane, Concord, CA.
3) The Mt. Diablo Homeless Outreach Program for Education (HOPE), 2730 Salvio St., Concord, CA, Room 24.
Please feel free to share these opportunities to help children in need."
Wogan -- who has been named a Bay Area News Group Hometown Hero for his work with at-risk students -- spoke about the youth he serves at a recent school board meeting.
"Our programs provide great support for our student who have faced trauma -- some of which you couldn't believe -- hardships and stressors that can be hard to imagine," he said. "We know that working together takes a village so that kids can thrive in the classroom."
Wogan thanked companies, individuals and board members who have already contributed.
"People have been so generous in this district," he said. "It baffles me at the holiday season that sometimes people who are struggling themselves contribute to the welfare of (other) people who are struggling."
The sweatshirt program, he said, is called "Hoodies for Hope." The district is accepting the sweatshirts in sizes extra small through double extra large.
Wogan also stressed the importance of what some might consider "little things," such as the ability of parents to buy gifts for their children. The donation of checks and gift cards makes this possible.
The sponsorship program allows donors to purchase gifts from an anonymous wish list provided by a student. Donations of nonperishable foods assist families who live in cars, runaways or other students without permanent homes.
"We have about 60 families who have no access to cooking," Wogan said. "Kids can't learn on an empty stomach."