In North Beach School District, there’s a new program that seeks to wrap around children, and it’s being received by the community with open arms. Called the North Beach Children and Family Care Alliance, its evolution has been rapid and remarkable.
It started with a school-based Clothing Closet, the brain child of Rettai Bruni, who joined North Beach School District as the Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator this past August. She brought a passion for kids and families, and a history of hard work on behalf of kids living in tough circumstances.
In NBSD, she hit the ground running, starting with the Clothing Closet at North Beach Junior High/High School. The root purpose of the closet is to provide clothing and other personal items needed by students. Then, in September, a post in the North Beach Classifieds Facebook page appealing for needed Clothing Closet items set something bigger in motion.
The post caught the attention of two especially big-hearted and determined women in the community, Lynne Andagan and Carol Schoenfeldt. When Bruni shared the many needs students arrive at school with, they had found a mission. Andagan and Schoenfeldt became a needed link to individuals and organizations in the community and devoted themselves to making sure the closet was stocked with anything a student might need – ranging from clothing and hygiene items to blankets, tarps, healthy snack items, and even laundry services.
“Lynne and Carol have been invaluable in helping me rally community members and make sure that we continue to receive donations of these items for our most at risk students,” Bruni said. “As a result of their efforts, countless needy students have obtained new or gently used clothing items from the closet.”
The founding members of the North Beach Children and Family Alliance didn’t stop there. Schoenfeldt initiated a Facebook page called, “Angels for Ocean Shores Kids,” where community members can check in and learn what current, specific needs are.
Leading up to the holiday season, the group was able to secure enough donations to provide 47 students and/or families gifts that they otherwise couldn’t have had. Community members have sponsored youth and taken them and their families shopping for clothing items, and groceries.
Alliance members have delivered food items for families on weekends or evenings when they have been hungry and without funds for groceries. Community members have donated warm meals like breakfast burritos or soup/chili/stew to Bruni’s office on multiple occasions providing a student with a warm meal when they’ve arrived at school late due to circumstances beyond their control, or if they have no money on their food account.
Transportation in a rural community is another challenge that Bruni and her group have tackled. At times, alliance members have provided medical transportation to families that couldn’t otherwise get to Aberdeen for medical care or to pick up a prescription. “Loaded” fuel cards have been donated for families that are struggling with transportation costs.
Bruni shared the story of a family of seven, including a NBSD student, living in single motel room. When the team became aware of their situation, they reached out to learn how to help. They started with coupons for laundry, and referrals to a Grays Harbor area employment agency and legal services. By supporting and providing resources to this family, the team has given the student and younger siblings a better chance of school and life success.
In another exciting extension of this work, Seaside Liquidation has set up an account that anyone can donate to. When a student or family with a need is identified, Bruni can make a purchase using the account and receive a 10 percent discount on items for students or families. Donors have provided $735 in cash donations so far, and it’s been used in several urgent situations.
With these early successes under their belts, members of the group are reaching out to the community in a more formalized way. At a recent Community Voices meeting, the trio shared the history of the group and the tremendous need. Multiple new members joined the group, including several interested in helping mentor high school students. Bruni hopes these individuals will become the core of a formal mentorship program to work with at-risk youth.
“Can we, as a community, come together to heal the hurt in so many of our kids…to empower their hearts and minds to chase their dreams and succeed?” Supt. Andrew Kelly reflected recently. “It seems to me that this is the paramount question that each community and school district must answer. I’m hard-pressed to imagine any, more important work.”
Rettai Bruni and the North Beach Children and Family Alliance volunteers are providing the answer to Supt. Kelly’s question daily.
Join the cause
Want to help NBCFA support students?
The alliance has a variety of ways you can help. Contact Rettai Bruni at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 289-3888 Ext.167. On Facebook, join the Angels for Ocean Shores Kids group to stay up-to-date on urgent needs.