MANATEE COUNTY — Alycia Bower is a firm believer that every little bit counts.
To that end, the senior at Braden River High School on March 24 launched her newest campaign for change — Helpfulness Against Homelessness. The program will serve to create awareness about homelessness, promote volunteer opportunities and provide direct support to individuals in need.
As part of the program, residents are being asked to collect and assemble kits that include items such as socks, mosquito repellent, toothbrushes, shoes, wash clothes, towels, toiletries and sleeping bags, among others. The kits, which are being accepted at the Bill Galvano One Stop Center in Bradenton — a facility that offers showers, food, job assistance and other services — will be distributed to homeless individuals who visit the facility.
“It’s going to (make) a huge impact,” Bower said of the project. “It’s the small things that lead up to change.”
Bower came up with the idea for the program after visiting the One Stop Center with her dad, Vince. As they toured the facility, Alycia noticed a single filing cabinet containing razors and other personal hygiene-type items for people using the shower facilities.
“I didn’t picture it being enough,” Bower said.
The ManaTEENS president and varsity cheerleader quickly began to formulate her plan.
Bower said the program is especially important now because people have turned their focus to helping victims of natural disasters in Haiti and Chile, for example.
“We have the same issues in our own county,” she said. “I wanted to make sure the needs here were being met as well.
“Unless you see the issue firsthand, people don’t even know (it exists),” she said. “Homelessness is a problem in Manatee County, and it’s growing.”
As part of the campaign, as well as her position as an intern with Hands On Manatee, Bower will be spreading the word about her new program and other volunteering opportunities to other ManaTEENS members and service groups throughout the area.
Bower said she hopes the Helpfulness Against Homelessness continues annually, even after she graduates this year and begins classes at the University of South Florida in the fall.
“I want to advocate and let people see we have a problem, but there are things we can do to fix it,” Bower said. “My goal is to get the issue out there and get the public involved.”
Bower has been involved with ManaTEENS since she was 11 years old, and has served as the organization’s president for the last two years. She also is responsible for the creation of the Big Breath and Bark! campaign, which raises money to equip fire trucks with oxygen masks for pets, a few years ago.
The One Stop Center, 701 17th Ave. W., houses assistance programs such as Our Daily Bread and Community Coalition on Homelessness, and currently is the only drop-off location for the kits.
The facility currently assists between 200 and 450 people daily. For more information, visit www.cchomeless.com.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to help?
You can drop off pre-made kits including at least 12 items, such as socks, mosquito repellent, toothbrushes, shoes, wash clothes, towels, diapers, formula, toiletries, reading glasses, sleeping bags, drop clothes and tools to the Bill Galvano One Stop Center, 701 17th Ave., W., Bradenton. The center is open 8:30 .m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.