Helping homeless students succeed

FWB Woman's Club creates S3 Project

Savannah Vasquez

FORT WALTON BEACH — It all started with a guest speaker.

Amy Dale, Title I Coordinator for the Okaloosa County School District, came to the May meeting of the Fort Walton Beach Woman's Club.

Her topic: the needs of homeless students.

“She came as a guest speaker for us and told us there was a need there and we thought, ‘Oh, Lord, we can’t ignore that need,’” said club member Cissy Wyninegar.

Two months later, five club members, all former educators, put their heads together and organized the S3 Project which aims to help homeless students by making them "safe, secure and successful.”

S3 Project team members include Wyninegar, project leader Vivian Green, Ann Johnston, Kris Pattison and Charlene Couvillion.

“Every so often we do a community-wide project,” Green said. “I didn’t realize we had so many homeless families in the district. The key is we have to insure a sustainable system of revenue. We are reaching out to other organizations to help us. Maybe if we had one big major fundraiser, that kind of thing would help.”

Dale said there are 1,015 OCSD students that qualify as homeless, but the number is always changing. Of those, 225 are foster children.

The Fort Walton Beach Woman's Club is collecting supplies and funds for students at four schools: Elliott Point Elementary School, Pryor Middle School, Shalimar Elementary School and Wright Elementary School.

In addition to money, the group is gathering sanitary cleansing items, shampoo, soap, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

"We have collected a ton of stuff," Wyninegar said.

OCSD spokeswoman Cindy Gates said that all four of the schools selected for the S3 Project are Title I schools, meaning the school gets extra state funding to support low-income students.

“Title I schools get extra funding for students, but not the kind of funding that will pay for all these other things that they are doing,” Gates said. “As the Title I is a grant, there’s a lot of things that you can do and things that you can’t do with that money.”

In addition to toiletry items and school supplies, the S3 Project has partnered with Goodwill Easterseals of the Gulf Coast to provide vouchers for the children to shop for clothing. The club has also partnered with The Salvation Army to help families financially.

Wyninegar added that the definition of a homeless student doesn’t mean the child is living on the street.

“A lot of the homeless students, they are living with grandparents or aunts or uncles and they have a roof over their head,” Wyninegar said.

“As the kids come through, they all are served.”

The Fort Walton Beach Woman's Club S3 Project is hosting drives for travel-size deodorant, shampoo, soap, sanitary napkins, toothbrushes and school supplies on the first Saturday of April, May and June from 10:30 a.m-1 p.m. in the parking lot across from the Brooks-Beal Center at 100 Beal Parkway N.W. in Fort Walton Beach.

Another way to give is to drop off clothes and household items at the Goodwill on 913H Beal Parkway in Fort Walton Beach and specify your donation is for the Woman's Club S3 Project.

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