After realizing that people tend to focus on the underprivileged young children during the holidays, Project STAR, a program that serves homeless and unaccompanied teens at Golden High School, decided to add a Secret Santa initiative this holiday season.
“We wanted to make sure they (the teens) get something they want for the holidays,” said Jo Schantz, one of four Golden residents who started Project STAR.
Those who sign up to be a Secret Santa will be partnered with an anonymous Golden High School student in need. The Secret Santa will receive the student’s wish list via the counselors’ office at Golden High School — the same avenue for which the students will receive their wished-for holiday gift items.
The students’ wish lists include a variety of items, including clothing such as socks, gloves, hats, etc.; gift cards for gas, entertainment and food; school supplies including pens, notebooks and calculators; and personal care items, such as electric shavers, curling irons and makeup.
Deadline to sign up to become a Secret Santa is Dec. 16. However, it is recommended to sign up early, as gifts should be returned to the high school no later than Dec. 18. The school closes for winter break on Dec. 20.
To become a Project STAR Secret Santa, contact Joy Bauman at email@example.com
Donations to benefit Project STAR and Need for Clean are accepted at a number of local businesses throughout Golden. To find a donation bin or a location that accepts monetary donations on behalf of Project STAR, contact Joy Bauman at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jo Schantz at Jo.email@example.com
Items can also be dropped off at the counselors’ office at Golden High School, 701 24th St. Contact Wendy Wyckoff at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to inquire about hosting a collection drive.
Donors can also send a check in support of Project STAR to the Golden Rescue Fund, Attn: Bethany Thomas, 1320 Arapahoe Street, Golden, CO 80401. Donations are tax deductible when sent through the Golden Rescue Fund, which is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit.
Underprivileged teens often get overlooked.
“The teens kind of get lost in the shuffle,” said Jo Schantz of Golden. “That really struck our heart strings.”
Thus, Project STAR came to be, serving homeless and unaccompanied teens at Golden High School. The project is the brainchild of Schantz, Joy Bauman, Katie Schmalzel and Kelsey Johnson. It got its start as a conceptual project that the adult women, who call themselves the Green Team, came up with as a graduation requirement for Leadership Golden's 2018/2019 class.
But the group didn't want the project to be just a concept, Schantz said. “We wanted to see this come to life.”
What Project STAR does is collect donations from the community to provide the homeless and unaccompanied teens at Golden High School with the basic necessities they don't have access to. Donations can run the gamut — gift cards to purchase fast food, clothing and school supplies; passes to the Golden Community Center to get access to showers; vouchers to get haircuts or for use at laundromats and even entertainment venues.
“Being a teenager is hard enough as it is,” Bauman said, adding non-the-less being hungry or worrying about where you will sleep at night. “It's commendable that they're staying in school. I'd like to do whatever I can to help them stay in school.”
Along the way of getting Project STAR launched, the Green Team got connected with Julie Dalrymple, 15, a sophomore at Golden High who had recently launched her own homeless assistance project, Need for Clean.
Students were assigned to come up with a passion project in Milo Carpenter's ninth-grade honors English class, Dalrymple said. It was Carpenter who “pushed me to take a little idea and turn it into something big,” Dalrymple said.
Need for Clean collects toiletries — travel sized shampoo and soaps, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, etc. — and some clothing, such as socks, and provides them to students in need at Golden High School.
“It seemed like a good pairing,” Bauman said of the partnership that has now formed between Need for Clean and Project STAR.
Both Need for Clean and Project STAR provides the students in need with their necessities confidentially by working with Golden High School councilor Wendy Wyckoff.
“Making it discreet is essential,” Dalrymple said. “Teens don't want their friends to think less of them because of their situation.”
There are 42 identified homeless or unaccompanied teens at Golden High School, Schantz said, adding the school councilors believe there may be many more.
“People might not recognize (homelessness) is an issue in our community,” Schantz said. But now that the word has spread, the response to Need for Clean and Project STAR has been phenomenal, she added. “People in our community have big hearts.”
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