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Volunteers needed to help needy students
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Love INC is a non-profit organization that dispenses hand-ups and not hand-outs. Now, it’s the one in need of a hand-up. Volunteers who can provide extra helping hands are needed to help with the additional load it is handling this Christmas.

Every year, Love In the Name of Christ plays Santa to needy children and families in the area by matching them with generous donors in the community. Upwards of 500 children made up the list in previous years. That, however, will jump quite significantly this Christmas, pushing the need for more volunteers to a critical level.

They will need every available helping hand to handle extra requests coming from the homeless students in the Manteca Unified School District. In the past, the school district’s Health Services Department partnered with Soroptimist International of Manteca to work on the Christmas wish list of homeless and foster students. Unfortunately, the service club is unable to do that this year due to a variety of circumstances beyond their control that left them short-handed.

In previous years, Health Services had 300 to 400 homeless children in their referral list.

“There’s no way we can do that this year. Soroptimist is not able to coordinate like they have done in the past,” said Health Services Director Caroline Thibodeau, who also happens to be a member of the service club.

So that responsibility has fallen under Love INC which has received some referrals from Soroptimist in the past, anyway. But now, the Christian-based organization will be doing what the service club members did at Christmas – collecting the names of the homeless students, finding out what gifts they want or wish for, gathering donors to help fulfill those wishes, and making sure the gifts are delivered to the children. This is where they will need as many volunteers as they can find, said Love INC-Manteca director Steve Parsons.

“I need volunteers to help handle the volume of calls,” for one thing, he said.

Thibodeau said the families of the homeless students have been given the information to contact Love INC about their Christmas wish lists.

The school district used to have 700 homeless students by the end of the school year. However, “at this moment, we have 669 homeless students,” Thibodeau reported.

“It’s the most we have ever had at this time of the year,” she said.

On top of that are 374 students in foster care, she added. “There’s a lot of need out there. We’re working closely with homeless families. We’re doing that on a one-to-one basis every single day.”

Parsons remains hopeful and unfazed.

“We’re here to help, even as the need increases. We’re here to help,” he staunchly said.


Homeless students wish for pillows, blankets, socks

Even Parsons was amazed at the things that homeless students wish for at Christmas.

“It’s really amazing. I see a lot of requests on their Christmas list for blankets and pillows, and food, and heaters – things that we take for granted but they don’t have,” he said.

Just the other day, he was talking with the members of a homeless family and told him that going from one place to another that offered a roof over their heads, each “new place” that they found offered a lot less in creature comforts or basic needs than the one before. That, Parsons noted, explained to him why many of the homeless children are asking for portable heaters.

Pillows, blankets and socks also are very often requested instead of food – there are “a lot of requests for underwear,” Parsons said.

“These are things that we take for granted but they don’t have. They want blankets because, sometimes, they have only one blanket. Or, they just have a hand-me-down pillow, and they want to have their own pillow. There are a lot of requests for underwear (and) socks. It’s amazing to me. A want would be a new iPod. But no, they want their socks.”

Anyone wishing to be a Love INC volunteer this Christmas, or to help grand the wish of a homeless student or needy family can call Love I.N.C. at 825.9131.