Arizona had the largest increase in the number of homeless youth in the nation last year, and a number of Sun Lakes women are reaching out to help. Kay Glantz of Sun Lakes is the co-chair of the Homeless Teens program for Assistance League of East Valley, an all-volunteer group that raises funds for community members in need.
Glantz and her co-chair Diane Burrus shop for everything from clothing, blankets, and school supplies to food, hygiene kits, and transit passes. They deliver them regularly to Chandler and Gilbert high schools where special programs have been set up to help teenagers who “couch surf” at friends’ homes or who live in shelters, motel rooms, or even cars.
Many are from families who can no longer afford rising rents, even though they may be employed. One young man living at a shelter in Phoenix after he lost both parents to COVID-19 got up at 4:30 a.m. daily to catch the light rail to Mesa where he would transfer to a bus to get to Chandler High School. He was among almost 350 homeless teens helped by the organization last year, and school officials say the need is growing.
Assistance League of East Valley will have its major fundraising event on April 29, a Casino Night at Oakwood Country Club in Sun Lakes. Their goal is to help children in need of all ages, providing new school clothing and uniforms for 5,000 elementary school children each year, in addition to the teens. Donations and sponsorships are needed.
“One girl was living in her boyfriend’s car, trying to finish high school by taking classes online using a ‘hotspot’ to connect her laptop,” said Glantz. “She needed clothing and blankets, so we brought her clothes from our thrift shop and purchased blankets.”
Many of the teens get up early to take the bus to school, and by mid-morning, they’re hungry, so snacks are always in demand. Some are in football or basketball after school, and they are ravenous before practice. Assistance League also provides food gift cards for the weekends.
“You have overcome so many barriers for us,” Valerie Gyory, advocate for the Families in Transition program in the Chandler School District, told the group recently. “Anything I’ve asked for, you’ve given us, from air mattresses to sweatshirts. Your members have been my angels, giving us an unbelievable amount of support for our students.”
“Assistance League of East Valley helps fill gaps not covered by federal support,” says Sarah Galetti, director of federal programs for the Chandler District. Things like laundry detergent and hair products are luxury products for these youth, and the organization is able to provide items immediately.
The group raises funds through their upscale thrift shop at 2326 N. Alma School Road, Chandler, as well as through grants, donations, and fundraising. Sponsors are being sought for the April 29 event, which will provide key support for the children served by the group.
For more information on the event, contact Mary Louise Lansbarkis at [email protected] or 480-720-0533. The organization’s website is www.assistanceleague.org/east-valley.