Polk County, Florida: Project Fill-A-Bag

Cassie Jacoby, Marybeth Soderstrom, Sheree Saulter, Danny Kushmer, Pamela Crain and FPRA President Jenny Baker surrounding Polk County Fire Rescue (PCFR) Chief David Cash and Sharon Casey of Community Southern

FPRA Dick Pope Polk County Chapter Collects Hygiene Products for Homeless Students
Bartow, Fla. (Nov. 8, 2012) – The Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) Dick Pope Polk County Chapter kicked off its annual Project Fill-a-Bucket and Fill-a-Bag collection drive at the Community Southern Bank in Bartow. Polk County Fire Rescue (PCFR) Chief David Cash, who will provide 30 drop-off locations throughout the county, and Sharon Casey of Community Southern, whose three banks will also serve as drop-off locations, kicked off the campaign with FPRA President Jenny Baker and board members Marybeth Soderstrom, Sheree Saulter, Danny Kushmer, Pamela Crain and Cassie Jacoby.

Donations of new hygiene products will be collected by Nov. 28 to fill nearly 800 buckets and bags that will be donated to the six Lake Wales Charter Schools and all Polk County Public Schools.

“We have children who for a variety of reasons find themselves in need of food, clothing, medical and dental help,” explained Lake Wales Charter Schools Homeless Liaison Paula Alford, R.N. “Kids are supposed to arrive at school ready to learn, but it’s hard for them to pay attention when they’re hungry. Our goal is to assist and secure resources so that they can participate in a full day of academic instruction for which there is no replacement.”

For six years, Alford has coordinated a campaign called “Holiday Buckets.” In addition to small gifts parents can wrap as Christmas presents, the buckets contain individual gallon-size zip-lock bags filled with shampoo and conditioner; toothbrushes and toothpaste; bath soap; brushes and combs; deodorant; and wash cloths.

FPRA also will collect “Holiday Bags” for the Polk County Public School District’s Hearth Project. “Started in 1991 as one of a few pilot programs in Florida, we served more than 2,400 homeless students last year,” said Dee Dee Wright, school district homeless liaison. “The program is responsible for ensuring the educational rights of homeless students as outlined in the McKinney-Vento Federal Law.” Along with bags of hygiene products, the Hearth Project will give students a new jacket, book and $10 gift card for food, gas and clothing.

Alford also oversees a weekend backpack program that manages church donations of food and other items placed in 108 backpacks that are provided to students each week.

“We see a lot of tears on Friday when students face a weekend without regular meals,” Alford added. “It’s even worse during the holidays when they have more time off and see other families celebrating while they’re just trying to survive. There are a lot of misunderstandings about the nature of true poverty. We don’t judge the families. The key is to stop the cycle of poverty.”

Students are identified by teachers, clinic and office staff, guidance, school administrators, the registered nurse, social worker, migrant and homeless liaisons.

The public is encouraged to drop off donations to 30 Polk County Fire Stations and office locations, three Community Southern Bank locations in Lakeland, Bartow and Winter Haven, the Lakeside Village campus of Webster University in Lakeland and A-C-T in Bartow. The schools will receive the donations on Dec. 3 for distribution to the students before schools recess for the holidays. Visit www.frpapolk.org for the list of donation locations. For more information, email Cassie Jacoby, cassiejacoby@gmail.com or call 863-206-6759.

About FPRA www.fpra.org
The Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) is a statewide organization of more than 1,200 public relations professionals dedicated to advancing the professional development of its members who, through ethical and standardized practices, enhance the public relations profession in Florida. Founded in 1938 in Tampa by Lt. Col. John W. Dillin, the organization of 16 professional chapters and seven student chapters will celebrate the 75th anniversary in 2013. The DP/PC Chapter of FPRA is made up of more than 60 public relations professionals representing nearly every industry in the area; including government, tourism, non-profit, education, healthcare, financial, retail, agencies and big & small business. In addition to monthly meetings with guest speakers, Wednesday, FPRA DP/PC will host a Media Breakfast on Tues., Mar. 19, 2013 and the Carillon Classic 5K Run/Walk on Saturday, May 25, 2013.

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