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Local Church Presents NCSD, Food For Thought Program Donations

Local church presents NCSD, Food For Thought program donations

<p>Horace Langford Jr. / Pahrump Valley Times - Fidelis Christian Church was able to present the Nye County School District and Food for Thought with $1,250 each Tuesday morning to help children in need. From left to right: Linda Fitzgibbons, NCSD homeless liaison; Jim Scott, Fidelis Christian Church pastor and Rock-4-A-Cause Organizer; and Shannon Moore, founder of Food for Thought.</p>

Horace Langford Jr. / Pahrump Valley Times - Fidelis Christian Church was able to present the Nye County School District and Food for Thought with $1,250 each Tuesday morning to help children in need. From left to right: Linda Fitzgibbons, NCSD homeless liaison; Jim Scott, Fidelis Christian Church pastor and Rock-4-A-Cause Organizer; and Shannon Moore, founder of Food for Thought.

One local church was able to donate $2,500 to the Nye County School District and Food for Thought program this week to help provide disadvantaged children with some of the basic necessities that many often take for granted.

Fidelis Christian Church presented the school district and Food for Thought with checks for $1,250 each Tuesday morning that were collected from the second annual Rock-4-A-Cause benefit concert held at the beginning of this month and other donations the church was able to collect in the interim.

The funds will go to help Food for Thought provide backpacks full of food for hungry children when they leave school for the weekends and holiday breaks and to help the school district’s Homeless Children and At-Risk Children in Need Fund to provide things like clothing, toiletries, shoes and other items kids in the program may need to do well in school while dealing with tough living situations at home.

The school district’s fund, alongside the McKinney-Vento Act, a grant that allows the district to remove educational barriers by providing things like school supplies, transportation and breakfast and lunch for homeless and at risk children, additionally allows NCSD to provide other items kids may need physically and emotionally to do well in school.

While most of the children in the NCSD program are not homeless in the sense that they live on the streets, many are living in transitional or non-permanent living situations.

In monetary terms, Linda Fitzgibbons, NCSD Homeless Liaison, said this donation could provide around 100 pairs of pants for those students in the program, but added, however, that the money will go toward more than just clothing.

The NCSD fund uses money from donations like this one to pay for a variety of different things students may need to complete their school experience, like paying for their senior yearbooks, prom tickets, helping them go on a class trip or even be able to play on their school’s sports team.

“With our high school kids it makes a big difference for them, especially our high school seniors. I have a senior who wouldn’t be getting invitations to send out (for graduation), just things we take for granted. Yearbooks, things we still look back on that are a rite of passage. If they’re going to be graduating and their homeless that’s somethings that’s going to come up,” Fitzgibbons said.

Shannon Moore, founder of Food for Thought, said this donation can provide meals for 250 children for a weekend or 4,000 breakfasts for students in her program.

Moore added that she and her volunteers are always grateful for donations like this one to help the children in the program. She said Food for Thought is also always looking for more volunteers, both to coordinate pick-ups and drop-offs of the backpacks for children and to help pack backpacks before they go home with the children over weekends and breaks.

Food for Thought is currently looking for a volunteer coordinator for Hafen Elementary School.

Those interested in donating to Food for Thought or volunteering can contact Moore at 775-910-1552.

For more information on the Homeless and Children in Transition program at NCSD or how to help call Fitzgibbons at 775-727-1875.


Local Golfers Raise Money for "Clothes for Kids"

Local golfers raise money for 'Clothes for Kids'

<p>Anthony Jaynes / Special to the Pahrump Valley Times - John Whitaker teeing off at the first hole at the Lake View Executive 18-hole golf course during the “Clothes for Kids Fundraiser,” a charitable organization geared to raising money to buy clothes for underprivileged kids.</p>

Anthony Jaynes / Special to the Pahrump Valley Times - John Whitaker teeing off at the first hole at the Lake View Executive 18-hole golf course during the “Clothes for Kids Fundraiser,” a charitable organization geared to raising money to buy clothes for underprivileged kids.

The weather was spectacular for the second annual “Clothes for Kids” fundraiser tournament held at the Lake View Executive Golf Course. The tournament consisted of a scramble tournament shotgun start approach where players are spread out through each of the 18 holes and work their way back to their original starting hole. The completion of the golf game takes approximately 3 1/2 hours.

Tee off started sharply at 9 a.m. and at the completion of the tournament participants were greeted with a luncheon and awards ceremony, where prizes were distributed. Keoki’s Wings and Things catered the luncheon and Nye County coalition donated chairs and tables for the event.

After the luncheon there was a silent raffle where sponsors of the event contributed prizes to help the event raise money to help local children in need of clothing.

Lee Jolley, one of the 67 owners of the Lake View Executive Golf Course organized the event.

“The idea came about when I was talking to one of my friends who was a teacher at Hafen Elementary School. My friend expressed that there was a large amount of children who were in need of clothes among other things. Through word-of-mouth the idea for fundraiser took on a life of its own,” Jolley said.

The event coordinators charged $50 per person. If you were an annual member or a punch cardholder you received a discounted rate of $32. There was also a cup sponsorship where advertisement from local businesses was placed on a small sign at each of the 18 holes. If you went in as a team you were charged $240 thus creating a small discount for registering for the event.

The proceeds of the event were being collected and distributed by Linda Fitzgibbons who works for the Nye County School District. She said that the proceeds were going to be distributed to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Children Activity Fund. This year the organization has identified 266 needy children.

“This event primarily focuses on funding for clothing of these children,” Fitzgibbons said.

This year a second organization was brought into the fundraiser. “Court Appointed Special Advocates” which is an organization that caters to the needs of foster children. The CASA will be receiving half the proceeds from the event.

Doug Shaw was the MC for the event. He helped with pulling tickets for the raffle and presenting the prizes. There were 51 participants in the tournament. The fundraising event generated $3,415 for the local charities.

Tournament winners won the following prizes: First Place winners won a free round of golf from Mountain Falls Golf Course. Second place winners won a free round of golf from Lake View Executive Golf Course. There was also a “closest to pin” contest where winners were awarded gift certificates from various merchants.

The first-place winners who were a team:

The Misfits: Jim Hamm, Paul Claypool, Bruce Britt, Bobby Owens with a total score of (50)

The second place winners:

The Owens Family: Mark and Elliott Owen with a total score of (51)

Closest to Pin 9 winners:

For the men was Eric Albertson and for the women was Karen Cornu.

Closest to Pin 14 winners:

For the men was Josh Schlotzsky and for the women was Charlene Riley.


NCSD: Homelessness Among Students Rising

NCSD: Homelessness among students rising

<p>Selwyn Harris / Pahrump Valley Times A local mother, left, seeks help to pay for propane to cook. Though she does have a roof over her head, the federal government still considers her homeless. A number of school children in Pahrump face similar conditions.</p>

Selwyn Harris / Pahrump Valley Times A local mother, left, seeks help to pay for propane to cook. Though she does have a roof over her head, the federal government still considers her homeless. A number of school children in Pahrump face similar conditions.

A recent federal government report on homelessness among Nye County School District students reveals the number is at an all-time high.

The federally enacted McKinney-Vento report helps the district identify and provide resources for students and families considered living below the poverty line throughout the nation.

Locally, the total number of students identified as homeless now stands at 348 out of a districtwide 2013-14 student census of 5,214 as of February 2014.

In December, the homeless count stood at 313.

The report broke down the numbers by school and ethnicity.

At present, southern Nye County schools educate the largest number of homeless students, most of whom are at the elementary and middle school level.

Rosemary Clarke Middle School in Pahrump led all other schools in the district with a total of 73 homeless children.

Out of the four K-5 campuses, two local elementary schools, Manse and J.G. Johnson had the second highest number of students at 66 each, while Floyd and Hafen elementary schools tallied their numbers at 29 and 22 students respectively.

Pahrump Valley High School checked in with more than 50 homeless students.

Though the plight of those students is nothing new to the district, in recent years officials have a more accurate method of determining their numbers and identifying them.

That task falls onto the shoulders of NCSD Homeless Student Liaison Linda Fitzgibbons.

Since 2010, Fitzgibbons has seen the ebb and flow of those who are identified as living below the poverty line.

“Every year I always think the number will go down,” Fitzgibbons said. “When I do see a jump in the numbers, I have to look at what is the reason why? Right now there is one of two reasons,” she said.

The liaison noted that prior to the 2009-10 school year, there were no reliable means of getting an accurate count of homeless students.

“At the time the program was in place and it was federally mandated but we did not have an advocate in Nye County. When I came on in the 2009-10 school year, there was actually a body in place to start setting up the program and begin identifying these children. Prior to that, we really had no way to identify these kids unless someone would contact us,” she said.

In the five years the program has been in place, Fitzgibbons said she now has additional help in recognizing students whose families are having significant difficulties in maintaining a suitable residence.

The help came by way of the entire district rank and file, including lunch staff and even bus drivers.

“We also have site liaisons at every single school and we are doing a better job of getting the information out there and identifying the children.” she said.

Additionally, Fitzgibbons said a simple questionnaire is sent to all parents and guardians to help determine what students may be eligible to receive services provided by the district.

The questionnaire allows officials to get an accurate picture of how a student is living and whether the family is undergoing ‘significant economic hardships.’

“We send out a student residency questionnaire that asks the types of questions about living conditions and housing situations. Every single student that comes into the Nye County School District whether they are new or a returning student will get them,” she said.

Though the loss of a job is a major reason why families end up homeless, Fitzgibbons said there are many other contributing factors.

“We also have family issues such as divorce, domestic violence and students that have been kicked out by parents. We have students that for whatever reason, it was safer for them to live on the streets than it was for them to be in their own homes. I’ve had parents drop their kids off at somebody’s house and never return. That has happened a lot,” she said.

The report provided by Fitzgibbons is also broken down by race.

Of the 348 students identified as homeless, 70 percent are Caucasian.

Hispanic and blacks make up 18 percent and 5 percent respectively, while Asians total about 1 percent of the homeless population.

A dividing line between north and south campuses shows southern Nye County schools surpass those in the north in terms of homeless students.

Gabbs School, for example is listed as having one homeless student.

Combined, teachers at Tonopah Elementary, Middle and High School are tasked with educating a total of 10 homeless students.

Beatty and Amargosa schools have a combined total of five homeless students.

The report also broke down the numbers by grade level.

Districtwide, first graders made up the majority with 44 homeless children while high school juniors were listed at 10.

Pre-K and kindergartners in the district total 44 kids combined.

By way of grants, Fitzgibbons said the district is able to provide services for the students who have been identified.

One of those services provides for free and reduced meals for students, which for some, is the only meal they will eat each day.

“Once they hit my list, it automatically goes to our food service department and those kids are taken care of. It’s one of the very first things that happens,” she said.

There is more than one “official” definition of homelessness.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation.

Fitzgibbons says though she is not aware of students living in tents in the desert, many local families fall under the HHS definition.

She also noted that an individual with a child is more likely to secure a temporary place to live than one who is alone.

“If you are a homeless single adult and you ask someone to take you in, they are more likely to believe that you got yourself in that situation and probably won’t take you in. If you are an adult with a kindergartner or a first grader on your hands, they’re more likely to take you in because of the child, not because of you.

“The majority of our families have a roof over their head because of that reason. Ninety-nine percent of our children do have a roof over their heads but it’s not theirs and it’s definitely not permanent,” she said.

One local woman with a small child fits that very description.

On Tuesday mother and child were seated behind a restaurant along Highway 160 with sign in hand.

The message on cardboard she was holding requested any kind of monetary assistance to buy propane for her temporary home.

New to the community, the woman who preferred to remain anonymous explained her situation.

“I am on disability. We were in Las Vegas for almost four years and now I am living with my sister here. We ran out of propane but we get paid on the first. The stove is the only thing that uses propane so now we have to use the microwave to heat our food. I have seven kids. My youngest daughter passed away,” she said.

Fitzgibbons, meanwhile, mentioned additional services that allow students the opportunity to study during summer break.

“Our Summer Slide program provides workbook type materials. If a child is going from third grade to fourth grade, it would be educational materials that promote reading, math, science and things like that during the summer,” she said.

In light of the homeless plight district officials are facing, the liaison did impart a recent success story.

Fitzgibbons spoke about a young woman who is living a much different life at present compared to a few years ago when she was homeless.

Kayla Ball is now employed at the Nye County District Attorney’s Office.

Ball received job training from Nye Communities Coalition’s Youth Werks program with direction from Fitzgibbons.

“When her work experience time was up the DA’s office called her and ended up hiring her and was just promoted to the position of legal secretary. This past weekend I saw her and she told me that she was just approved for a house loan. On Sunday she went out looking for a home. She is very vocal on how this program helped her,” she said.

Ball herself sang the praises of the program while taking a break from her job at the district attorney’s office this week.

“They have many programs that helped me get where I am today and one of them is the McKenny-Vento program. Without that, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be here right now because that opened up a lot of windows and opportunities for me to be successful. I recently got a promotion. I started as an office assistant and I am now an executive legal secretary now. A few years ago things were really difficult but I can look back now and be thankful for it, surprisingly,” she said.

For additional information on services for students, contact Fitzgibbons at 775-727-1875.


Pahrump Valley Times - May 20, 2011

THE TRAGEDY UNDER OUR NOSES: 253 kids in Nye County schools considered homeless by the federal government

 

Kelci Parks / Pahrump Valley Times - This photo is meant to illustrate scenes like this which play out every day in Nye County as the population of homeless kids grows.

By Kelci Parks

Remember this number: 253.
It’s projected to keep going up.
That’s how many homeless kids go to school in Nye County.
At 25 kids a classroom, that’s more than 10 classrooms of children who live in conditions considered inadequate under federal law.
So many kids fit this description that the school district has a homeless liaison. Her name is Linda Fitzgibbons.
The federal law that guides her work is the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The program’s main objective is to provide students with anything they need related to education, such as backpacks and school supplies.
Of course, “inadequate” housing can mean many different things, from kids living in cars to kids living in a three-bedroom home, but who live alongside 15 other dwellers.
“If you’ve got a family that is living in a two-bedroom duplex and they have 15 kids, that’s not adequate. It may be stationary, it may be permanent, as far as it’s on the ground and it’s not on wheels, or it’s not a tent or a car, and it may be regular, but it’s not adequate,” Fitzgibbons said.
She said she sees cases in this school district where parents can’t afford water or electricity, which is also not considered adequate, thus qualifying the student for the program. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, the act is the only major federal legislative response to child homelessness.
Another unfortunate qualifier is not having a regular or consistent home. Many children in the school district are having to “couch-surf,” taking up residence wherever they can for as long as they can before moving on to the next friend or relative who will take them, says Fitzgibbons.
Perhaps even more disturbing than the problem, is the rate at which it is growing, she adds.
Unemployment and foreclosures have sent homeless rates skyrocketing.
“Where our numbers are really increasing is our families who are losing their homes because they lose their jobs. And so basically what happens is they end up living with whoever will take them in,” Fitzgibbons said.
According to recent school district statistics, at the end of the 2007-2008 fiscal year there were 27 identified homeless children. The number nearly quadrupled during the 2009-2010 fiscal year with 114 children, and Fitzgibbons projects that by the end of this fiscal year (June 30) that number will reach about 270.
A report ending March 31, 2011 shows that most of the children are in first through fourth grade, with smaller numbers appearing at the high school level. Fitzgibbons says this is because by the time homeless children reach high school age most have already dropped out.
“That’s why you don’t see an awful lot of 11th and 12th graders (in the report), because their basic needs are more important than their school needs.”
Recently, students at Manse Elementary did their part to help the ever-growing problem. Inspired to help after watching a video about homeless children and the obstacles they face, fourth and fifth grade members of the student council, along with members of the tech squad (a group of students that helps set up the computers and sometimes helps with the school’s website) decided to have a penny war to raise money for the cause. By simply bringing in loose change, the group of students raised enough to donate $300, mostly in pennies and nickels. The best part is the fundraiser wasn’t organized by the school and in fact originated with 11-year-olds Bobbie Benbo and Levi Cadwell.  
The money gathered by the Manse students was donated to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Children Activity Fund. The fund acts as a sort of supplement to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The federal grant helps to pay for education related items, however, there are some things that these children need that may not be directly related to their education. This is where the Homeless Children Activity Fund comes into play.
Fitzgibbons said some of the items that the fund helps to pay for are shoes and toiletries; basic necessities, but not paid for by the grant.
“One thing that’s not readily available for children is shoes. Kids wear out their shoes, so if you were to go to a thrift store you see all kinds of adult shoes, but you don’t see any kids’ shoes because they just wear them out.”
The fund is used for much more than just the basics though.
“I’ve got seniors who are graduating from school and the school does provide them a loaner for cap and gown so at least they can graduate. They’ll provide them a loaner tassel, but if the kids want their own tassel they don’t get that, so we’ll pay for their tassel,” said Fitzgibbons, acknowledging the significance of the small trinket. “Another thing that we’re going to buy for them, those who are graduating, we’re going to buy a year book for them this year, this is the first time ever, that this has ever happened.”
One of the most tragic circumstances that leads to homelessness is a house fire. “If there’s a fire, the kids have nothing. You have to imagine waking up the next day and you’re still wearing the same clothes, the only pair of pants that you have, the only shirt you have,” Fitzgibbons said. She recalled a recent case involving a teenage girl who needed a curling iron and makeup. Although some might say that these things aren’t absolute necessities, most women would argue vehemently to the contrary, especially high-schoolers.
The dedicated kids at Manse Elementary aren’t the only community members to help the cause. The Silver Tappers held a benefit that raised more than $3,000; the local Elks collected new shoes and socks at their recent Spring Fling.
If you’d like to donate money or personal items such as shoes and toiletries to help children in the Nye County School District who are struggling with homelessness, contact Fitzgibbons at 775-727-1875.

 


Article Image
60 Minutes TV Show

Segment on Homeless Children and the Recession

The segment on homeless children and the recession will

run on 60 Minutes. A preview clip may be found on

the 60 Minutes web site at:

http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/60minutes/main3415.shtml

The focus of the segment is the impact of the recession on families and

children, including housing loss and food insecurity. The outstanding

efforts of Seminole County Schools' McKinney-Vento program,

Barbara Duffield

Policy Director

National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth

4701 Connecticut Avenue, NW, #402

Washington DC 20008

Phone: 202.364.7392

Fax: 202.318.7523

Email: bduffield@naehcy.org

Web: www.naehcy.org

 

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NOTE: The Nye County School District is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action agency and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, political affiliation, or disability. (Contact: Title IX Coordinator/Title II Officer, Section 504 Coordinator, 484 S. West St., Pahrump, NV 89048, (775) 727-7743