More than 1.6 million American children—including about 1,500 in the Poudre and Thompson School Districts alone—experience homelessness each year. Those children are more likely, relative to their peers who are housed, to fall behind in school, fail to meet basic needs and suffer from physical and behavioral health problems. What’s more, children who are homeless often develop feelings of negative self-esteem and a disconnect from peers.
Children in Need infuses a sense of normalcy, self-worth and optimism into the lives of children who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.
About a year after Homeless Gear launched, a McKinney-Vento liaison — a staff member assigned to work with students identified as homeless in the Poudre School District — began volunteering at Homeless Gear supply-distribution events. It did not take long for the liaison to make the connection: the students with whom she was working did not have access to the supplies that they and their families needed to get by. Homeless Gear was already collecting and distributing supplies for adults, she said; how about for children too?
With that simple premise (and after a lot of research to identify the scope of the need, the possible solutions and the implementation of those solutions), the Children in Need program was born in December 2009. It began with quarterly supply distributions for children and families at the Murphy Center for Hope, but has since evolved into a multi-pronged program that supports thousands of children and families throughout Larimer County.
The Children in Need program supports children and families through three primary activities:
1. Children In Need Service Events
Once per quarter, we host supply distribution and service events for children and families at the Matthews House Community Life Center (220 N. Grant Avenue in Fort Collins). These events are a collaboration between Homeless Gear and the Matthews House. We distribute gear, outerwear, hygiene items and other supplies, and numerous partner organizations join us to provide attendees with a wide range of additional services: eye exams, health screenings, children’s books, art supplies, haircuts, resource information and pet food, among others. Attendees are referred to the events through the McKinney-Vento program in the local school district and/or through agencies that serve homeless children and families in Larimer County.
Volunteers are the driving force behind our Children in Need events. As many as 150 volunteers participate in each event, serving as “personal shoppers” for attending families, distributing supplies and managing event logistics, among other tasks. For upcoming dates and to sign up for a shift, click here.
2. Food Distribution, Thompson School District
Once per month, volunteers stand in front of the Loveland Sam’s Club (1200 E. Eisenhower Blvd.) and collect food/drink items from customers. Everything that we collect is distributed to children and families in the Thompson School District via (a) the McKinney-Vento program for homeless children and (b) the Loveland Rotary Kids Pak (a hunger relief program that sends food bags home each weekend to families-in-need in the Thompson School District).
Events run from 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM with two volunteer shifts: 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM and 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM.
For upcoming dates and to sign up for a shift, click here.
3. Product Distribution, Statewide
Beyond the product that we distribute at our quarterly service events, we also send supplies–clothing, outerwear, hygiene supplies and more–to organizations that serve families who are in need across the state. Those organizations distribute the items that we send to the people whom they serve. Click here to see some of the agencies that we support.
You can receive help from the Children in Need program, directly and indirectly, through one of three ways (please also check out our other programs):
1. Attend a Service Event
We host service events once per quarter (Saturday morning) at the Matthews House Community Life Center: 220 N. Grant Avenue in Fort Collins. We distribute supplies, and other agencies join us to provide a wide range of services.
You must have a voucher to attend a Children in Need event, but we do not require or request any identifying documents. We distribute vouchers through dozens of referral agencies (including the school district); if you are already working with the school district or an agency, simply ask your case manager or representative for a voucher. You can also contact us by email at info@HomelessGear.org to request a voucher directly.
Click here to view our calendar of upcoming events.
2. Loveland Rotary Kids Pak
Homeless Gear is a proud supporter of Loveland Rotary Kids Pak. Kids Pak is a weekend-hunger relief program that sends food bags home each weekend with children-in-need in the Thompson School District. Homeless Gear hosts regular food drives for the program. To find out more about the program, click here.
3. Product Distribution
Homeless Gear only distributes children’s clothes directly at our regular service events, but we send supplies regularly to organizations that serve families who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless. Click here to see a list of some of the agencies that we distribute to. If you are an agency that is interested in receiving donations, please contact us by email at info@HomelessGear.org.
4. One Village One Family
One Village One Family program is a separate Homeless Gear program that helps families who are homeless obtain and maintain housing. Click here to find out more.
As with most of our programs, Children in Need is volunteer driven. There are plenty of ways to get involved with other programs that are connected to Children in Need (you can view those here), but there are at least three ways you can help out with Children in Need directly:
- Participate in a service event for children and families (upcoming dates here)
- Help at a Sam’s Club collection event in Loveland (upcoming dates here)
- Donate children’s items (supplies that we collect here)
If you want to sign up for a shift or learn more, contact us by email at Volunteer@HomelessGear.org or by phone at (970) 829-1162.
- Matt Goering, Product Programs Manager (Product Inquiries)
- Email: Matt@HomelessGear.org
- Phone: (970) 829-1151
- Pam Brewer, Volunteer Coordinator (Service and Volunteer Inquiries)
- Email: Pam@HomelessGear.org
- Phone: (970) 829-1162