This story appears here courtesy of TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.
By Mary Richards, Church News
Sima Eggett and Julia Chandler of the Spring Texas Stake have never met the teens they helped, but they still love them.
“We did what Jesus wanted us to do and what He would have done if He were here,” said Chandler. “We are His hands, and that’s why we are here, to spread that love to everyone and do what He would do — to help everyone feel loved.”
The two women learned about high school students in their school district in the Houston, Texas area, who were struggling with homelessness — living in foster homes, in group homes, out of cars, at friends’ houses or grandparents’ homes. Students don’t have a strong parental support system and sometimes don’t have enough food or a way to get to school. Many do not have Christmas gifts.
While local organizations help younger students celebrate Christmas, high school students are being overlooked. When Eggett and Chandler spoke with the school district’s social services liaison, they knew they could help meet some of the needs of the youth.
Eggett says food is the first thing on the list.
“We went online and said, ‘We need snacks.’ And we’re amazed at how many communities have just come together. We have boxes and snack boxes,” said Eggett. “We really wanted to reach the entire district community, and we were overwhelmed with the overwhelming response. It just took off from there.
For Christmas, the women created an Angel Tree for the high school students – each ornament on the tree listed a suggested gift to buy for the teens. The community again responded massively.
“There are seven high schools in our school district. We were able to provide Christmas gifts to 118 high school and six junior high school students through our generous community members,” said Eggett.
They learn about other school districts in other states like Utah that have educational foundations that do a lot of this work, but their district in Houston doesn’t. As more organizations and businesses recognize the needs of teenagers, they are stepping up and donating money, goods, and gifts to students’ possessions.
Then, the past school year, the two women helped secure an unused classroom at their high school for conversion into a youth center — a place where teens could get something to eat, meet contactees, do homework, and receive support. other. .
Eggett and Chandler are back to spreading the word and the community is sending out food and snacks for students to access. Rooms have sofas, desks, computers and microwaves for heating food.
The women also formed a birthday committee with small gifts and cupcakes which they gave contactees to give to the students on their birthdays. Now they are working on a mentoring program to help each student with more one-on-one attention and support.
Going forward, they want to see how to use JustServe to meet those needs. JustServe.org is a website and app where volunteers can find service projects in their area to work on. And they filed paperwork to become an official charitable organization with a board and representatives from each high school — who could reach out to get their own community involved.
Eggett recently had a meeting with some of the people who will be on the board. “I think it’s amazing that we are all different religions, but we have the same goal,” he said. “We use the example of Jesus Christ and act the way He wants us to.”
Due to the school’s privacy laws, Chandler said neither he nor the public know the teenager’s name. But she hopes the support they get from others will help them stay in school and graduate – knowing someone cares for them.
“We just hope they feel loved,” Chandler said. “If they can feel it, they may feel like, ‘I can go to school today, I can take this test today, I will stay in school, I am important.’
Eggett said the program’s goals were huge but it happened.
“We are very excited and we love these students very much. We want them to see that there is light and that their life can be different from now,” he said. “There are people who love them and people who really want to help them.”
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