Donation to Help Homeless Kids in Central Nebraska

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

Verna Haberman says that before she came the outreach coordinator for Grand Island Public Schools, she didn't think of kids when she thought of the homeless population.

"To me homeless people were always the men sleeping under the bridge, they were always drunks and drug addicts, they weren't 9 year olds," she said. "They weren't 5 year olds going to school."

However there are kids in the GIPS system who are homeless - living in motels, shelters, or even cars with their families. A donation of backpacks, school supplies, and books from Feed the Children will help the Outreach Program help those kids.

"It's so nice to get backpacks because, face it, they're a large ticket item," said Haberman. "You go to buy one and they're ten to twenty dollars."

Nearly 800 backpacks and supplies for them were dropped off in GI on Thursday. About 200 of them will stay in the Grand Island area, while the rest will be picked up by other school districts including Hastings, Kearney, and Lexington. Officials say homeless children are not unheard of in any of those communities.

"We have a large number of families living in poverty," said Heartland United Way Director Karen Rathke. "One in eight children in our four county area (Hall, Hamilton, Howard, and Merrick) live in poverty, and so for them the next meal is not a guarantee."

Haberman says the backpacks will help with that too. Feed the Children also donated snack packs, and some of the backpacks will be used in GIPS' Food 4 Thought program.

"When [you] have new backpacks and crayons and pencils, how much more excited you are to do your work and do a good job at it because you've got the proper equipment to work with," said Haberman.

She says it's important to them to inspire kids to do well in school because they believe education is the key to ending the cycle of poverty and homelessness.

The Outreach Center also distributes school supplies to homeless and impoverished students donates by the community during their annual Stuff the Bus campaign.

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