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MDUSD seeks holiday donations for homeless students and foster youth

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, November 12th, 2012 at 9:43 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

The Mt. Diablo school district’s Homeless Outreach Program for Education — or HOPE — provides services to homeless youth throughout the school year. And in the weeks leading up to the winter holidays, the program seeks donations to help make the season happier for homeless children and foster youth, whose parents may not be able to buy them gifts or purchase special foods for a holiday feast.

Here is more information about donations needed, provided by James Wogan, who directs the program:

“Foster Youth and Homeless Children Holiday Donation Request

Dear Friends,

I am writing to let you know about children in our community who do not have enough to eat, adequate clothes to wear to school, or a predictable place to live. As the holiday season approaches, please accept this letter as an invitation to learn more about our local homeless children and foster youth. I would like to ask that you do two things A) please consider making a contribution to homeless children and foster youth and B) please forward this letter or email to five or more people. Thank you so much!

Last year, the Mt. Diablo Unified Homeless Outreach Program for Education (Mt. Diablo HOPE) served 549 homeless students and Mt. Diablo Foster Youth Services served 236 foster youth. That’s 785 vulnerable children who need our support! Most of the homeless children we served lived with mothers and fathers who were one paycheck away from homelessness, lost their jobs, and had no choice but to live in motels, cars, homeless shelters, churches, synagogues, the Winter Nights program, or double up with friends or family. We saw an increase unaccompanied teenagers (58) who lived with the families of friends. Homeless children and foster youth with disabilities were especially vulnerable and received extra support. Mt. Diablo Unified has great success supporting foster youth – we have the highest graduation rate in California (93 percent), however, the holidays are often a difficult time for foster youth who live in group homes and with foster families. Your contribution will go a long way toward making the holidays a little brighter for our children.

Homeless children and foster youth reside in communities and attend schools throughout our school district; we serve homeless students and foster youth from Walnut Creek, Clayton, Pleasant Hill, Concord, and Bay Point. People may not realize how widespread our populations are because they are not visible in the community. Over the years, we have received generous donations from our teachers, parents, Local One – CST, CSEA district office personnel, PTSAs, Mt. Diablo school board members, members from every union / bargaining unit in our school district, and students themselves. We are grateful to the teachers of Mt. Diablo Unified for their compassion, hard work, and the excellent instruction that they provide for our students every school day. As support staff, we assist children with life stressors that can interfere with their education.

Please consider donating gift cards to Safeway, Target or Kohl’s. You may send donations by check or gift cards to: Elsa Dalpiaz, Secretary, Mt. Diablo Homeless Outreach Program for Education, 2730 Salvio St. Concord, CA 94519 or; drop donations off with Lori Amenta at the Mt. Diablo Unified District Office, 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord, CA. Please make checks payable to ‘Mt. Diablo HOPE.’ Please indicate if you would like a receipt for tax purposes. Kohl’s, Target, Safeway, or gift cards to other stores are helpful because they are easy to distribute and allow students and families to choose their own gifts, clothes, or food.

This year, we are going online to connect generous donors with recipients. If you or your organization would like to sponsor an individual family, please register online To sponsor a family, the minimum contribution that we suggest is $150. By the way, we don’t use the term ‘adopt a family’ for the holidays because the word adopt can have loaded meaning for foster youth.

Last year, the small act of sharing this letter resulted in contributions from all over the world.

Thank you for your consideration!

Yours truly,

James C. Wogan, LCSW, Administrator, School Linked Services & The School Linked Services Team: Felicia Stuckey-Smith, Director, Student Services; Elsa Dalpiaz, Evelyn Mercado, Derek Wang, Skip Weinstock, Hector Rivera-Lopez, Ben O’Meara, Vivica Taylor, Suzie Billingsley, Shalendell White, Ann McCollough, and our Social Work Interns and Tutors.

Happy Holidays!”

I have interviewed families assisted by this program and have seen Wogan and his team busily packing up items for needy families in classrooms at Olympic High. It is an effort that seems to grow each year, as more people find out about it and contribute — and as the number of needy families also seems to increase.

Do you have other suggestions for ways to spread the word about this program?

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8 Responses to “MDUSD seeks holiday donations for homeless students and foster youth”

  1. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Perhaps a Facebook page or twitter could help spread the word.

    I would “share” a Facebook page like I’ do for sports, music and “other” activities for students. Last year several of my out of state family and friends donated to MDUSD school grad night, sports and music programs because I shared a page/ link to the information with them.

  2. Michael Langley Says:

    After MDEA officers saw the letter on this blog, they posted it on the MDEA web page and the OurMdea Facebook site. This would have been a natural item for coordination for MDUSD with MDEA, Local 1 and CSEA if the employee unions had been contacted at the time of kick-off.

  3. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Please note that there is a very interesting webcast going on right now about opening the doors to juvenile courts to shed light on problems in the foster care system:

  4. Doctor J Says:

    Most people cannot access this blog — if you click on education, you get mumbo jumbo since yesterday.

  5. Theresa Harrington Says:

    For bilingual parents and teachers, I just received a news release from this organization that offers free K-5 Spanish and English reading materials to help promote family literacy:

  6. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The Share the Spirit program helps more than 30 nonprofit organizations throughout the East Bay, including Mental Health Consumer Concerns, Inc.

  7. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The New Haven school district in Union City is the only Bay Area district that has been selected as a finalist in the Race to the Top competition:
    MDUSD didn’t apply.

  8. Doctor J Says:

    Four California districts made it to the finals — it takes a good relationship with the Teacher’s Union to do it. MDUSD doesn’t have that. In fact, I don’t know of any effort of Steven Lawrence to even approach MDEA about applying.

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