Emergency Department Gives Homeless Students a Headstart

(From left) Kiyauna Kingsberry, Kim Jordan, Terrece Hill, Naomi Thiru, and Sakeena Olden, show off some of the backpack and supplies that the unit collected for the homeless children.
Pete Cabbagestalk of the IT Department caught the giving fever and assisted with the delivery of backpacks.
Viktoria Trimmer, nurse manager for the Emergency Department, and volunteer Kadija Jordan make the final delivery.

WASHINGTON – It’s Back to School time, and parents throughout the region have been scurrying around town trying to make sure their little charges have everything they need for a successful academic year.

First come backpacks, and then those backpacks have to be filled with pencils, pens, calculators, binders, erasers, glue, pencil sharpeners, paper, notebooks and more.  Lunch boxes have to be purchased and so does tissue for the kindergarteners.

But what if you are a homeless child?  Who gets your school supplies for the first day of school?

Enter the nurses, doctors and staff of the Howard University Hospital Emergency Department.

This year, as they have done for the past three years, the members of the Emergency Department each bought a backpack, filled it with school supplies and gave it to a homeless child.

Victoria Holley-Trimmer, nurse manager for the Emergency Department, said the project developed from constant need that she and others in her area see every day.

“We see so many families come through the emergency room that don’t have anything,” Holley-Trimmer said.  “We have whole families that come in sometimes with five kids with a cold.  They are homeless.  They don’t have clean clothes.  So we have a little corner in our break room where keep clothes that we bring to give to people.  This is really an extension of that.”

The members of the Emergency Department have been partnering with the law firm of Ropes and Gray since 2008 to give school supplies to homeless children.  Members each select the name of a child from a list supplied by the D.C. Coalition for the Homeless.   They then select from a list of grade-appropriate supplies that child would need supplied by the D.C. public schools.

Then, using their own money, the go shopping for a backpack and fill it with school supplies.

“Our rule is that you have to buy everything that a child needs to get started for school,” Holley-Trimmer said.  “Because if they don’t have everything they need to start out, they are always behind.”

So far, the department has given out over 100 backpacks.  Others in the hospital have also pitched in.

“We had a housekeeper give a backpack this year,” Holley-Trimmer said.

The cost can range from $40 for children in kindergarten to the third grade to about $80 for middle school children, she said.

The department plans to give a second round of backpacks for the beginning of the second semester, she said.   To give your own backpack, or just to contribute, contact Victoria Holley-Trimmer at 202.865.1734 or vtrimmer@huhosp.org.

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