Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services (WYFCS) has started a new initiative, “Every Child Needs” (ECN), and is seeking donations. The program will supply at risk children with basic needs such as blankets, pillows, pajamas, shoes, clothes, toiletries, coats and duffle bags.
Each year, WYFCS participates in the “Christmas Spirit Campaign” with the Young Professionals of the Greater Ocean City Maryland Chamber of Commerce to ensure disadvantaged children have a gift to open on Christmas morning. In 2018, the organization had multiple requests from children for a bed, mattress, blanket or pillow due to lack of said objects at home. Many professed to sleeping on couches or sharing beds with siblings. Often, they were in transient living situations such as staying with varying family members, homeless shelters or crisis centers. Executive Director Steve Taylor of WYFCS said the requests were a revelation to the organization.
“It was disheartening to learn that so many children don’t have their own bed or bedding items,” he said, “but it was inspiring to learn that the children wanted basic necessities over games and toys that many other children will be receiving for Christmas.”
Worcester County Public Schools report that 42.06 percent of school students live in households at or below the federal poverty level. They relayed to WYFCS that some children would bring plastic trash bags, duffle bags or backpacks with extra clothes to school each day, claiming they were unsure where they might sleep that night. The ECN program will use “Community Needs” grant funding to help families purchase basic living necessities.
WYFCS works with nearly 80 children through youth, adolescent, and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) programs. These children are to be given first preference with donations. Worcester County school guidance counselors have also offered to partner with WYFCS to provide leads about families with needs.
Candy Kitchen of Ocean City has donated stuffed animals, Quilters by the Sea Guild of Ocean Pines have donated handmade quilts and fleece blankets, Stevenson United Methodist Church Women’s Group has made a cash donation for pillows and pillow cases, and through Atlantic General Hospital, Pajamaprogram.org has collected over 200 pairs of pajamas and 200 books to assist with the initiative.
WYFCS Insurance Specialist and ECN founder Debbie Smullen said the program was intended to give children a sense of ownership and pride.
“We will be working with children in our programs, the school counselors from all Worcester County Schools and anyone who comes to our office in need for distribution. Our hope is to expand to mattresses and beds,” she said.