Volunteers, the United Fund of Surry County and local businesses have collected thousands of food and personal hygiene items to help teenagers.
United for Teens is an effort to help what organizers call silent population of teens who aren’t getting basic necessities at home. The United Fund of Surry began the new program earlier this month.
According to Volunteer Kate Appler with the United Fund, the United For Teens Fund Drive is a way to make the community aware of an overlooked need among teens in the community.
Appler said the group sought donations of foods that are easy to prepare such as Easy Mac, Ramen noodles, single-serve fruits and vegetables, cereal or protein bars, Pop Tarts, canned soup and ravioli. Other items sought were microwaveable meals that don’t require refrigeration, peanut butter, nabs, individual packaged cookies and snacks, muffin mix and individual packets of powered milk.
Toiletry items collected include shampoo, soap, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste, razors and feminine products.
Other items sought included donations of sturdy new or gently used backpacks, underwear, socks and laundry detergent.
According to Appler, awareness of hunger in younger children has been raised and is being addressed in a variety of ways. She added that there are teens in need of food and personal effects through no fault of their own, and they often cannot step forward because of the social stigma.
Unlike the backpack food programs at area middle and elementary schools, these teens will be helped in a less obvious way as to not embarrass them, Appler said. She said guidance counselors and teachers will help identify needs among students, then distribute the items accordingly.
Appler explained that concerned individuals saw this need and studied a similar project in High Point by its United Fund and United Way.
“We thought that this seemed like something our group could do,” said Appler. “The backpack programs for small children approach does not work for teens. As the children get older there is less involvement from the community to help them.”
She said the resulting drive for food and personal items is targeting local middle and high schools. Appler said that the group found that even more pressure has been put on teens recently by the economy. Part-time jobs that used to be the sole domain of teens and were a way for them to earn money to help siblings and family are now being taken by displaced workers from other fields, such as production and manufacturing.
Businesses helping with the effort include Renfro Corp., United Plastics, Nester Hosiery and SouthData are pitched in to help make a difference.
“We are very, very proud of what we’ve accomplished with the drive,” said Renfro Spokesperson Dave Greene. “This is typical of they way we here at Renfro step up to help our community.”
“It never ceases to amaze me how generous the people in Surry County are,” commented United Fund Executive Director Beth Pequeno. “This effort is a perfect example of that.”
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.