Operation Warm: A Homeless Youth Initiative

As fall begins we take to the outdoors in Arizona to view the slightest changes in our environment. Some families begin to look for winter refuge. While our temperatures rarely get below freezing, fifty degrees is enough to make you shiver through the night without the right protection. This project and other projects in our district like the Rotary Club of Anthem’s Homeless Youth Initiative begin to battle the unidentified challenges of children in our community. Their voice may be small but together we can help them survive and find purposeful meaning for their life.

Each year, more Arizona youth are displaced from home and thrust into a life of uncertainty. The negative experiences associated with homelessness can last a lifetime and can drastically affect an individual’s physical and mental state.

During the 2013-14 school year, more than 30,000 children statewide spent at least one night outside of their home. These students, many enrolled at Phoenix-area schools such as Boulder Creek High School, are lacking basic needs and supplies.

The Rotary Club of Anthem has stepped up to help by launching the Homeless Youth Connection, an effort to provide sustenance, clothing and other essential goods to homeless teenagers in the local area. The Anthem club supports students at Boulder Creek, Barry Goldwater High School, Mayer High School and Sandra Day O’Connor High School.

“A lot of them don’t get meals on the weekend,” said Ray Norris, Homeless Youth Connection chairman. “The schools feed them lunch during the week, but they go to bed hungry.”

To help students, Rotary presents gift cards for fast food restaurants, which Norris said helps fill the gap in the school feeding schedule. The organization also provides hygiene kits comprised of basics like toothpaste and soap. Rotary served more than 80 students last year and has provided more than $8,000 worth of hygiene kits and meal cards since December 2014.

Rotary coordinates all distribution through school counselors and staff to protect the students’ privacy.

To support the Homeless Youth Connection, monetary donations can be made to Anthem Rotary Foundation HYC at 3655 W. Anthem Way, Ste. A-109, PMB 107, Anthem, AZ 85086. In-kind donations of jeans, shoes, backpacks, toiletries and restaurant gift cards are also needed. All donations are tax deductible.

Rotary will be at the Anthem Wal-Mart from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, to collect hygiene product donations. The organization’s Nov. 7 Taste of Fall event at the Anthem Civic Building will also raise money to help support this and other community service initiatives.