Douglas County Residents Give HOPE to Families in Need
Written by Amanda Kalina, HOPE Online Academy Communications Manager
About five years ago, Melanie Stone, Director of HOPE Online Learning Academy Co-Op’s Activities and Athletics Program, was helping out at a HOPE Learning Center event and noticed several of the kids weren’t wearing coats.
“I asked the kids where their coats were, as it was pretty chilly that day,” said Melanie. “That’s when they told me they didn’t have a coat to wear.”
Melanie was heartbroken that HOPE students were struggling to have their basic needs met. She approached her children’s school, in Douglas County, and asked if she could have the leftover coats from a recent school coat drive. From there the coat drive took off. Eventually dozens of Douglas County Schools were donating their lost and found items at the end of the school year to a HOPE Clothing Bank organized by Melanie in a warehouse behind one of their Learning Centers in Aurora.
This effort has now been going strong for more than three years. HOPE employees and friends have also started to give their gently used clothing and household items to the effort, and several community groups, including the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, have volunteered to organize what’s been collected. In fact, a group of 30 Douglas County Boy Scouts recently help prepare the HOPE Clothing Bank for their Open House.
“We are grateful for Douglas County’s support. This clothing bank brings so many smiles to the families it serves. This is one of the many important things we do at HOPE to support our students so they have the tools they need to succeed,” said Melanie.
HOPE estimates they helped clothe nearly 200 families during the 2014/2015 school year. Their back-to-school shopping 2015/2016 Open House took place on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28-29. Close to 150 visited during the two-day event, representing 14 HOPE Learning Centers and 11 community organizations.
“This is really helpful for me as I don’t have a lot of funds to buy clothes for my children,” said one of the shoppers, who was a mother of two HOPE students at Action Learning Center in Aurora. Her brother, who also is sending his child to HOPE at Action Learning Center this year, joined her to pick up some needed items for his family.
Shoppers had many reasons for attending the Open House over the weekend, but for one 11th grade student, who was joined by her sisters at the event on Friday afternoon, finding a blue v-neck shirt meant a lot to her.
“This is my favorite color. It is good to find some new things and get some winter clothes. I’m homeless right now and don’t have many clothes,” she said.
In addition to the Clothing Bank, at the holidays, HOPE identifies families they serve who are struggling and may need help to purchase gifts. Community groups can adopt the families and fulfill their wish lists. Several Douglas County schools have participated in this program in the past.
HOPE Online Learning Academy Co-Op is a Douglas County School District charter school. They serve 3,000 students in K-12 grade and operate 30 Learning Centers throughout the state, with many in the Denver Metro area. Nearly 80 percent of HOPE’s student population is on free and reduced lunch and 10 percent are homeless. HOPE’s innovative, blended learning education model is built around a community-directed partnership. They empower students who may have struggled academically in the past and work with them to find a path to success.
For more information on how you can support HOPE students and their families, contact Melanie Stone at melanie.stone[at]hopeonline[dot]org or call 720-402-3016. HOPE is always looking for community groups and schools willing to do service projects, like book or hygiene products drives, to support their students and Learning Centers.