Hope 4 Communities, a Bradenton-based nonprofit, serves thousands across the Suncoast.
Homeless and needy children who will attend Emma E. Booker Elementary this year got ready on Saturday to go back to school in two weeks.
At a Day 4 Hope event at First United Methodist Church in downtown Sarasota, kids received free school supplies, medical and dental exams, and haircuts. A Day 4 Hope event also took place at Venice Presbyterian Church.
Emma E. Booker partnered with First United Methodist to help families that are homeless, near homelessness or have the greatest need.
Jazime said her kids’ favorite part was getting their nails done, but her favorite part was the free physical exam so her daughter can play volleyball this year.
“I just love seeing them smiling and happy,” said Carl, a father of five.
Kids getting haircuts wanted to use a mirror to see the front and the back of their new ’do. One girl’s sisters said her new haircut made her look like Stephanie from “Full House.” Kamant, who’s going into fourth grade, kept a lock of his hair as a souvenir.
More than 200 kids participated, and almost 200 volunteers helped. In its fourth annual year of hosting the event, the church raised $26,000.
“The children leave feeling very positive and very ready for school,” said Kara Altice-Montez, co-organizer of the event. “Our goal is to put them on an even playing field with children who have the opportunity to have all these things, so they go to school with clean clothes, new shoes, new backpack supplies, and looking good. Parents can feel confident that they have had all their physical checkups, and their teeth are in good shape.”
Families got to take home professional family portraits and photographs of their children.
“That’s really the most emotional part of it,” Altice-Montez said. “So many of these people say they’ve never even had a picture taken of their family. Everyone comes in dressed nicely and excited and prepared. It’s beautiful.”
Hope 4 Communities, a Bradenton-based nonprofit, is behind the events on church campuses and schools across the Suncoast, serving thousands of low-income and homeless children. Reports show that there are nearly 1,000 homeless students who live in Sarasota County.
“This is really a blessing for a lot of us here,” said Robert, whose daughter is entering fourth grade this year.
Families were served a home-cooked meal when they arrived and left with bags full of groceries. When children left, they hugged the volunteers, saying, “Thank you.”
“No matter how much money you have, getting your kids ready to go back to school is stressful,” said Kevin Shaffer, a volunteer. “They can now feel like they have a foundation going into the school year.”
This story comes from Aspirations Journalism, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation and Sarasota Herald-Tribune to inform, inspire, and engage the community to take action on issues related to Age-Friendly Sarasota, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, National Council on Aging and the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition.