'Summer Fun' backpacks help homeless students

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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - The St. Johns County School District Homeless Program is sending more than $15,000 worth of supplies to homeless children.

The "Summer Fun" backpacks are filled with books, word puzzles, journals, toys and nonperishable food items.

"You think about all you were able to do in the school year, you know you got them transportation to school, food," homeless liaison Chamane Williams said. "When that time ends, you're heart starts to get a little heavy wondering what's going to happen to them over the summer."

JCP Cares, a community charitable organization in northwest St. Johns County, conducted a countywide collection drive to provide the backpacks to the county's homeless student population whose number has steadily approached 500. The students getting the backpacks are between the ages of 3 to 19.

"A lot of people are still very prideful," Williams said. "You know, if I lose a job or if I get evicted, you know that's not something I'm going to scream out for help. But we have learned the different warning signs and different things to look for."

"A lot of the houses are now being foreclosed on not only here in this area, but also in the North," said Kathy Bravo, of JCP Cares. "You know, if you're going to have to live in your car, you can't do that when you live up North. You want to go someplace warmer."

JCP Cares delivered all the backpacks to the St. Johns County School District building on Thursday. Most of them are going to homeless students at St. Augustine High School and Crookshank Elementary School.

"We've got a lot of children in our shelters right now, we've got a lot of kids that are what they call "sofa surfing," they've lost their homes, so right now they make be living at their friend's house," Bravo said.

Donors like Publix, McDonald's and several area rotary clubs all took part in helping put the backpacks together.

"Arts and crafts, just fun things," Bravo said of what's in the backpacks. "The girls got a lot of journals. Some of the girls got nail polish and lip gloss, stuff like that just to make them feel good."

The backpacks have been tailored to each individual student. Blue is for the boys and red is for the girls. The students will receive the backpacks on Friday.

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