CHAMPLIN, Minn. -- Amy Harnack sees the need every day among students at Champlin Park High School in Champlin. She started "The Shelf," a program featured on What's Cool in Our School last winter.
Embraced by service groups throughout the school, "The Shelf" offers basic necessities, such as food and school supplies, for homeless students, and also for students whose families are struggling financially.
"By the end of the year I had 34 homeless students," said Harnack. That's not including the families that also came in because they are economically distressed.
This summer, Harnack found another hit on her hands. A day where any family in the district could stop by the high school and pick up a packet of school supplies, get a free haircut, even pick up a free back pack.
"We're like, we've gotta take advantage of this," said Jennifer Curtis, who saw Harnack's flyer about the giveaway tacked up at her apartment. Ironically, Curtis is also a teacher trying to find a way to stretch her budget for back to school supplies for her family, at the same time she's using her own money to buy supplies for her classroom.
A steady throng of families came through Champlin Park High for the giveaway. It's one of those good news/bad news things for Harnack, who was hoping the day would be a success, even as those numbers reveal economic hardship in the suburbs.
"A lot of our students are unaccompanied youth or families doubled up," said Karrie Schaaf, who is the Homeless Youth and Family Liaison for the Anoka Hennepin school district. She says homelessness looks different in the suburbs. "We've got three or four families staying in an apartment, maybe two-bedroom sized apartment," said Schaaf.
So Harnack decided to create an August supply giveaway, stocked by items Champlin Park High School students donated when school let out for the summer. Some students worked over the summer to refurbish some gently used items, and churches and businesses also dropped off supplies and also contributed volunteers.
In the end, 180 students from all grade levels in the Anoka-Hennepin District were served.
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All rights reserved.)