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Volunteers Help Over 100 High School Students Struggling With Homelessness

Two women in the Spring Texas Stake find ways to support students

This story appears here courtesy of TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Mary Richards, Church News

Julia Chandler and Sima Eggett stand in an empty classroom at Grand Oaks High School in Spring, Texas, that became a teen center for students facing homelessness in December 2022. Photo by Julia Chandler, courtesy of Church News. All rights reserved.

Sima Eggett and Julia Chandler of the Spring Texas Stake have never met the teenagers they are helping, but they love them anyway.

“We are doing what Jesus would want us to do and what He would do if He were here,” Chandler said. “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 schoolers in their school district in the Houston, Texas, area who were struggling with homelessness — living in foster care, in group homes, out of a car, at a friend’s home or a grandparent’s home. The students do not have a strong parental support system and sometimes do not have enough food or a way to get to school. Many had no Christmas presents.

While local organizations helped younger students have a Christmas, the high school students were overlooked. As Eggett and Chandler spoke with the school district social service liaison, they knew they could help fill some of the needs for the teenagers.

Eggett said food was the first thing on the list.

“We got online and said, ‘We need snacks.’ And we were amazed at how many in the community just came together. We had boxes and boxes of snacks,” Eggett said. “We really wanted to reach out to the whole district community, and we were just overwhelmed with a huge response. It just took off from there.”

For Christmas, the women made Angel Trees for the high schoolers — each ornament on the tree listed a suggested gift to be purchased for the teenagers. The community again responded in a big way.

“There are seven high schools within our school district. We were able to provide 118 high school students and six junior high school students with Christmas presents through our generous community members,” Eggett said.

Julia Chandler’s living room in Spring, Texas, fills up with donated gifts from the community for high school students experiencing homelessness at seven high schools in the Houston area in December 2022. Photo by Julia Chandler, courtesy of Church News. All rights reserved.

They learned about other school districts in other states like Utah which have education foundations that do a lot of this work, but their district in Houston did not. As more organizations and businesses became aware of the teenagers’ needs, they came forward and donated money, goods and gifts for the students to have.

Then, in the past school year, the two women helped secure an unused classroom at their high school to be turned into a teen center — a place where the teenagers could get something to eat, meet with the liaison, do homework and receive other support.

Eggett and Chandler again put the word out and the community delivered foods and snacks for the students to access. The room has couches, tables, computers and a microwave to heat food.

Julia Chandler, center, and Sima Eggett, left, with other volunteers and school officials at Grand Oaks High School in Spring, Texas, December 7, 2022. They are standing in the classroom that became a teen center for students facing homelessness. Photo by Julia Chandler, courtesy of Church News. All rights reserved.

The women also formed a birthday committee with a small gift and cupcake they gave to the liaison to give to the students for their birthdays. Now they are working on mentoring programs to help each student with more one-on-one attention and support.

In the future, they would like to see how to use JustServe for filling these needs. JustServe.org is a website and app where volunteers can find service projects in their area to do. And they are filing the paperwork to become an official charitable organization with a board and representation from each high school — who can reach out to get their own communities involved.

A birthday package of snacks, a cupcake and small gifts for high school students experiencing homelessness in the Houston, Texas, area, in 2022. Photo by Julia Chandler, courtesy of Church News. All rights reserved.

Eggett recently had a meeting with some of the people who will be on the board. “I thought it was just amazing that we were of all different faiths, but we have the same purpose,” she said. “We are using the example of Jesus Christ and acting in a way that He would want us to act.”

Because of school privacy laws, Chandler said she nor the public know the teenagers’ names. But she hopes the support they are getting from other people will help them stay in school and graduate — knowing someone cares about them.

“We just hope they feel loved,” Chandler said. “If they can feel that, they might feel like, ‘I can go to school today, I can take this test today, I’ll stay in school, I do matter.”

Eggett said the goals for the program are huge but they are happening.

“We are so excited and we just love these students so much. We want them to be able to see that there’s a light and their life can be different than what it is now,” she said. “There are people who love them and people that really truly want to help them.”

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