Ashley Judd, Tyner Elementary teacher and a group of amazing JCPS students picked up hammers and tape measures last Saturday (March 23rd, 2019) to make their vision for a way to help the homeless people in our area a reality. Their group is called “REaCH” which stands for “Realize, Engage, and Create Hope”. REaCH is a student-led group that is part of the STLP program focuses on community service and helping those in need. The group initially started at the JCMS but with the help of Mrs. Ashley Gabbard has expanded into the JCHS and Mrs. Judd also sees it being available to the Elementary schools as well. The group was established to promote empathy in students, empowering them to make a difference, while utilizing critical thinking and problem solving. Since beginning the group in October, the kids have successfully organized and carried out one community service project each month. The message conveyed to these students from the beginning is to “dream BIG” and not let their age, where they live, or circumstances hold them back from trying to accomplish big things. During an early brainstorm session about possible projects, one student said, “We should build a homeless shelter here in Jackson County!” At a community meeting the group (led by the students) unveiled their plans for a student-built emergency shelter for the homeless population in Jackson County! They extended their invitation to the community to join them in seeing their vision come to life. One thinks of homelessness to only be a problem in large cities. However, to highlight the degree of the problem within our own community Mrs. Judd shared the following statistics about our local student population. According to the criteria set forth in the Federal Guidelines there are 170 students within our school district that are considered homeless. The break down for each school is as follows:
• JCHS has 43 homeless students,
• JCMS has 50 homeless students,
• Sand Gap Elementary has 27 homeless students,
• McKee Elementary has 10 homeless students and
• Tyner Elementary has 40 homeless students.
These statistics made everyone pause and shake their heads.
The goal of the REaCH group is to raise $1,500 to build an “Emergency Shelter” that would prevent someone from sleeping outside in harsh elements. This temporary, emergency homeless shelter would have a 4 Bed Occupancy (2 sets of bunk beds) and be stocked with tote of non-perishable food and water. As of now the plan does not include having electricity in the shelter and it would utilize Kerosene /Propane Heat. The goal is to provide a “temporary” shelter to accommodate a homeless person until a more permanent solution could be found. It is anticipated that the stay would last only a week or less while the individual(s) and county officials find a more permanent solution for them. REaCH proposed that the shelter would be sustained through school food drives along with supplemental Church/ Community Involvement.
The first emergency shelter would be located on McCammon Ridge Road near the EMS and across the road from the Cabinet for Community Based Services. This should also facilitate getting help from the state services available without requiring a vehicle to travel to this facility. The REaCH group also has a “Big Picture” in mind that would see an Emergency Shelter built in other parts of our county. Specifically, there are plans to locate a donated camper on the property of Grace Ministries in Annville and also eventually get one constructed in Sand Gap. Grace Ministries said they would donate building materials to the project and also provide the spot for a camper on the campus.
Their goal is to begin construction on March 23rd, 2019 was met. The project completion date is scheduled for April 13th, 2019.
Mrs. Judd was asked a few questions regarding the status of the project. She responded as follows:
Did you meet your fundraiser goals?
“We exceeded our initial fundraising goal, which was $1500, that would have successfully built one emergency shelter. The group shattered expectations and was able to raise $3,000!! We are ecstatic to announce that we will be building 2 emergency warming shelters for Jackson County!! One will be located in McKee, the second will be in Sand Gap, and a third will be a camper, donated by Shaun and Tracie Hays, which will be set up at Grace Covenant Ministries in Annville. The impact of this project will now be felt throughout Jackson County."
Do you still need supplies? help?
“We began construction this past Saturday. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete the project in one day. We will be reconvening at 9:00 AM on Saturday, March 30th to hopefully complete the project. While we have secured enough funds for these two shelters, we are still accepting donations in hopes to further this project. Going forward, food and water donations would be a great way for the community and churches to be involved. We will have three locations that we will need to keep stocked with non-perishable food, and bottled water.”
“Many people have expressed interest in getting involved. The best way for the community to be aware of upcoming events and projects and to get involved is to follow our Facebook page: @findyourREaCH2. We want to thank our community for their amazing support in making this dream a reality! Jackson County is an amazing place to raise our children. The way our community has rallied around our students is proof of this!”