With less than three weeks before the school year begins, the nonprofit group Outreach Assisting Students in Schools is seeking volunteer help for its newest spot, in Seffner.
After operating three Tampa locations since 2001, the new center will help about 70,000 students in the SouthShore and Brandon area with free clothing, shoes and other necessities through a partnership with public school social workers.
Ginger Bean, OASIS Network executive director, said that before this expansion, social workers who were charged with caring for students in two or three schools spent excessive time traveling between the Tampa donation centers and the far reaches of eastern Hillsborough County. She said OASIS needs volunteers from local churches or organizations to pick up clothes from designated locations and categorize them. OASIS also needs a local business willing to host a semipermanent clothing receptacle for community donations.
When OASIS formed in 2001, 48 percent of students qualified for the free lunch program, placing them at or under the federal poverty level, Bean said.
That number rose to 57 percent last year, including 2,500 students who were considered homeless. OASIS strives to let children focus on learning, not basic daily needs.
"The goal is to keep them in school," Bean said. "It's impossible to get your homework done, laundry and meals when you are living in the street or under a portable or doubling up families."
The new Seffner location, which OASIS doesn't want to publicize in order to prevent walkup requests for assistance, will be established before school starts. Students will help organize the shelves, but Bean said that about 20 volunteers will be necessary to serve the new location.
"For students to learn, they need basic things like decent clothing and shampoo. OASIS allows our social workers to help meet these needs and help these children perform better in school," said Ken Gaughan, supervisor of social workers for Hillsborough County public schools.
Contact Eric Vician at [email protected]