Thanks to a recent lower school dress drive, the holiday season was made a little brighter for at-risk and underprivileged youth at the Starbird Youth Center in San Jose. The items collected became part of a larger donation of more than 500 gifts that were handed out to clients of the center.
“There were about seven bags of boys and girls party clothing donated,” recalled Tere Aceves, Harker’s director of event fundraising. Last month the lower school hosted a holiday cookie decorating event, at which parents were asked to bring in gently used children’s dress clothing for the drive. About 60 parents heeded the call for such items.
Harker parent Erin Vokey (Miles, grade 1) is the youth activities supervisor at the Starbird Youth Center and is in charge of the center’s day-to-day activities, as well as its literacy programs.
“We are an after-school program that works with at-risk and under-privileged youth. We help them by providing food, homework help and a safe place to go after school. We also do a program called The Good Choices, which is a basic moral guide that teaches them what are the right choices to make to lead a better life,” she said.
At the time of the dress drive, the center also had partnered with the Family Giving Tree to distribute gifts to clients and their families for its annual Christmas event, Vokey explained. “We set up a room where children picked out clothing from the holiday dress drive. This is the second year we have had the dresses there and it was a huge success. Fellow Harker parent Julie Carr (Aiden Harshman, grade 1) and her family volunteered to hand out all of the dresses to the youth in our community. It was an extremely heartwarming event,” recalled Vokey.
Another Harker parent, Stephanie Black (Chloe, grade 1), is the program director at the Starbird Youth Center. “Without her none of this would have been possible,” added Vokey.
Carr and her son (Aiden Harshman, grade 1) agreed that it was wonderful to see the joy in the kids’ faces when they got a beautiful dress, jacket or new shirt. “Stephanie, Erin and the entire staff at the center made it so easy for us to come in and volunteer. We are very grateful for the work they do and proud that we got to represent Harker’s philanthropy,” said Carr.
Carr noted that a fun, unexpected perk of being at the event was meeting the woman who does the voice of Bart Simpson, Nancy Cartwright, who was there to donate a pinball machine for the kids. “It was a Simpsons-themed machine and the kids loved it!” said Carr.
“There’s nothing more inspiring than seeing kids learn how to make good choices in life,” said Cartwright, noting that one of the reasons she wanted to achieve success in her own work was so she would have the means to help others.
Of his experience volunteering, Carr’s son, Aiden, reported that it was “really cool.” He said that there were lots of games to play with at the center and that he enjoyed seeing the kids get toys. “It made me feel good in my heart.”