Ben Skinner, a junior at Bishop Kelly High School, was talking to his mom, Patty, around the holidays last year. She teaches at South Junior High in Boise. Skinner asked her whether her students were looking forward to their upcoming break. She told him that for some of them — those with struggling families, those living in shelters — time away from the security of school is more a source of worry than delight.
The discussion stuck in Skinner’s mind.
“Going to BK, having a family, I’m so sheltered,” Skinner said. “You can forget that homeless shelters are only 10 minutes away.”
To graduate from BK, students must complete a community service project. Skinner decided to go one step further.
He founded OATHS, which stands for “Organization Assisting the Homeless Student.” His dad, David Skinner, a teacher at BK, helped him do the paperwork to register it as a nonprofit organization.
OATHS raises money to buy items for homeless kids — computers, musical instruments, sports equipment, etc. — that will further their education, and, in a larger sense, help them know that other young people in the community are not unaware of their plight.
“Gobblestock ‘10,” a combination dance/bake sale/film fest at BK during Thanksgiving week, raised $1,628 for future grants. Skinner said BK students Griff Morris, Megan Rebholtz, Hank McDonald, Will Jaundalderis and Michael Bokan went above and beyond to make the fundraiser a success.
So far, OATHS has made connections with five kids at South Junior High, Corpus Christi House and the City Light Home for Women and Children. Skinner has had the singular thrill of handing a new laptop to a fellow student in need — “I’ve never had a feeling like that,” he said — and of receiving a thank you note from a kid who said he planned to wear the new clothes OATHS gave him “forever.”
Skinner wants OATHS to continue after he graduates. He’s optimistic it will. The BK History Club has adopted the organization and plans are in the works to create a mentorship program that would pair BK students with homeless students in the community.
Read more about OATHS and make a donation online.
Improving lives at Good Samaritan
Residents at the nonprofit Good Samaritan Home in Boise were among the names on this year’s Soroptimist gift lists, which feature senior citizens and Treasure Valley foster children who could use some holiday cheer. The lists ran in the Statesman on Thanksgiving, offering hundreds of opportunities for readers to buy Christmas presents for people in need (find the list online).
In working on a story I wrote about the Good Samaritan Home for Thursday’s paper, I found scores of people and organizations help make the Good Samaritan a better place to live.
Julie Zicaro, the home’s executive director, said that a nod must go to tireless volunteer, Mae Purves. Purves has been on the home’s board since 1992, and is its longest-serving board member. One of many anecdotes shows the kind of volunteer she is: A certain Good Samaritan resident collects large amounts of cardboard and recycles it to earn pocket money. The resident lost his drivers license and didn’t know how he was going to haul his cardboard.
Purves, a senior citizen herself, volunteered to do the driving. It took four trips, but all the cardboard got hauled, and the resident got his money.
During the summer, Purves brings bags of fruit and vegetables to the residents from her own garden and planted a garden on site for residents.
“I don’t know where to start when it comes to saying how important Mae is to this home,” Zicaro said.