The Seedling’s Promise program supports the most at-risk children in our public schools. The great majority are classified as low socio-economic (free and reduced lunch), and much of this is due to their status as children who have a parent in prison.
As the literature says repeatedly, “Kids often do time with their parents.”
Media and retailers bombard us with images of the perfect Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and other family celebrations, with visions of ideal family relationships and material prosperity.
It’s only natural to wish the same for our young mentees. Mentors remain sensitive to the fact that in some households these holidays are not celebrated due to religious practice, financial distress, or family strife. The safest and most effective open-ended questions on the topic are “What do you think you’ll do during the break from school?” or “What are you looking forward to during the break from school?”
At Seedling, we recognize the heartfelt worry and dismay of mentors who learn that their mentees and their families are in dire economic circumstances. Seedling continues to encourage you to observe the guidelines about modest ($10) gifts in order to avoid awkwardness for the mentee or the caregiver. But there are other ways that you can help if you choose.
The best resource to consult is the staff at your mentee’s school. Schools that have Parent Support Specialists or Family Resource Centers are well-equipped to tell you how to participate anonymously in various programs. You may always consult your School Contact for guidance. The programs below are typically advertised within the schools, but you might like to know about them, too:
COATS FOR KIDS
Coats for Kids, in its 26th year, is an annual community event that collects and distributes new and gently worn, winter coats to youth in Central Texas. This year’s event will occur on December 8th, from 8am to 3pm at the Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road, 78704. Visit the Junior League Austin website for more information:
Operation Blue Santa is a non-profit, community based corporation, organized by the Austin Police Department. Each year eligible families receive a full holiday meal and wrapped Christmas gifts for each child under age 14. This program began in Austin in 1972 serving about 20 families, this year Blue Santa will easily serve over 3500 families. To learn more about how families in need can apply for assistance, visit the Blue Santa website.
The Brown Santa program provides holiday assistance to families in Travis County who live outside the geographical city limits of Austin. The adults in the families apply at the area Rural Community Centers, closest to their residence, for assistance. To find out more about Brown Santa visit their website.
Year-round, an excellent source of social service information is Texas 211. At this site, one can access a comprehensive database of social services by zip code or other search parameters. In central Texas, the contract is managed by United Way, so the web address is styled that way. You may also dial 211 if you have a specific question.
These are just a few of the many ways you can help your mentee have a merrier holiday season, but always remember…YOU are the best gift of all. Your time, your attention, your support and your advocacy are making a difference all year-long.
Thank you, and Happy Fall Holidays!
~ Seedling Mentor Program Staff