Ginny’s Helping Hand Visits Samoset
I am working with some Youth Venture teams that would like to collaborate with Ginny’s Helping Hand, Inc. for their community projects. Sue Chalifoux Zephir, Executive Director, and Brandon Robbins, Assistant Manager, from Ginny’s were kind enough to make a visit to Samoset last Friday and tell students about Ginny’s. I felt that making this connection would inspire this group of Changemaking Youth Venture students to pursue their ventures. Ginny’s, located in Leominster, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the everyday living needs of the less fortunate.
The first Youth Venture team in attendance named themselves the Single Pringle Parents. This group of 7th grade girls is inspired to help single parents right here in the Leominster community. “Single Pringle” has a nice ring to it. I will have to ask the girls if there is any hidden meaning with their team name beyond the rhyming factor. 😉
Also in attendance, is the Samoset Youth Venture team CLASS Venture. This team hosts community functions at Samoset, and they would like to have a donation drive for Ginny’s to collect socks and flip-flops.
Many years ago, a friend of mine (who has since passed away) had gone through some difficult times and he truly benefited from Ginny’s services. I used to visit the pantry and check out their books and household items. On one of these occasions, I asked Ginny if she remembered my friend, and she did. He was a lovable character, so I can see why she would. He aptly called Ginny an angel.
Sue and her husband had volunteered at Ginny’s and had seen the need in the community for the services that Ginny’s provided. When Ginny retired and moved down south, Sue took over the operation to carry out Ginny’s important work.
According to Sue, Ginny started the food pantry over 30 years ago. It was hard setting up a non-profit when communities were always changing. Thirty years ago there was less awareness of hunger and homelessness.
Team Questions on Single Parents
Ari, who was the spokesperson from her team, asked if there are single parents on staff at Ginny’s. Brandon spoke highly of Myra, who is a single parent who began as a volunteer and now is part of Ginny’s full time staff. Myra is bilingual, speaking Spanish and English. She has four children in Leominster Public Schools.
Ari also asked if Ginny’s talks to single parents, as in providing counsel. Sue ensured her that the staff at Ginny’s creates a strong relationship with the people that they serve; however, they are not licensed caseworkers. She indicated that if Ginny’s can not provide the service an individual needs, they will connect the individual to the program and service needed.
The question was asked, what is the single parent ratio of moms to dads that you serve? Sue was not sure. She did not have those statistics right in front of her, but thoughtfully said that she would get back to the team with an answer to this question.
Ginny’s Needs List is Year Round
What stuff do you help single parents with? Sue explained that Ginny’s helps single parents and any person in need transition from homelessness. Ginny’s helps by providing people in need with food, furniture, clothing and “setting up where ever they are at.”
Brandon spoke about how people are inspired to donate during the holidays, and that is wonderful. He explained that people in the community are hungry 12 months of the year and Ginny’s needs are year round. He continued to say Ginny’s serves 50 homeless people in the community during a typical month.
Sue listed off items that are always on their needs list – diapers, baby wipes, baby food, pet food, clothing for children, and personal hygiene products. She also mentioned that they are always looking for volunteers in their food pantry.
This sparked more questions from the girls. Could they donate care packages? Baskets with canned items? Baskets with toys? Sue assured the girls that whatever they decide to do, it will be accepted with gratitude.
Birthday in a Basket
Sue spoke about the idea of a birthday in a basket donation. This would involve providing the cake, plates, cups, utensils and perhaps presents for a family in need to help celebrate a birthday. I thought this was a wonderful idea. The Single Pringle Parents team thought so too.
Sock and Flip Flop Donation Drive
Francine Meigs, Samoset’s Youth Venture Champion, asked if Ginny’s would benefit from a sock and flip-flop donation drive. Sue explained that socks are #1! New socks are definitely a very important item that Ginny’s donates to people-in-need. The flip-flops are also needed. The example of people being misplaced due to a fire was mentioned. In some cases, people lose everything – even their shoes. Flip-flops are also needed for those that use public showers.
The Community Programs Connected to Ginny’s
What are the other programs that Ginny’s is connected to? There are many – including the United Way, the Leominster Police Department, the Leominster Public Schools, Catholic Charities and the Worcester County Food Bank. The Worcester County Food Bank provides a large portion of food donations to Ginny’s, and connected Ginny’s to Target and Hannaford, Brandon explained. Ginny’s also works with both the Homeless Outreach Coordinator and the Domestic Violence Coordinator in Leominster. They help people that need temporary shelter.
Before Brandon and Sue left, Sue again, encouraged the students to come and visit the shelter on a Saturday and perhaps volunteer. One of the boys on the Samoset All Star Angels Team (a different team with a different cause!) told Sue that he did want to volunteer. I told Sue that he is such a great kid, and I hope he does! The Single Pringle Parents team was very inspired by what Sue and Brandon had to say about Ginny’s, and I look forward to getting their feedback this Friday when I meet with them again!