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South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)

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VA helps homeless families get back to school

Several black garbage bags with family name tags on them

Volunteers and VA staff members get an individual family's needs from an interview completed with their social worker. Then the bags are assembled and placed in black plastic bags for transport.

By Steven Goetsch
Sunday, September 16, 2018
When the families and children arrived at the Bluff Creek Tower, home of the South Texas VA Homeless Veterans Program, they saw a sea of black plastic garbage bags, piled knee high.
The bags which took up half the room contained start up school supplies for almost 100 homeless families in the San Antonio Community. It was a culmination of a three-month effort of the Social Work and Voluntary Services, and the generous donations from 4,200 VA staff members. A group of children standing and smiling with their new backpacks

The Sanchez children stand with their brand-new backpacks given to them by the South Texas social workers who organized the fifth annual back-to-school supply drive.

It wasn’t until the community volunteers, who collected, bagged, sorted, and arranged the back-to-school materials, retrieved the nondescript garbage bags and revealed its contents, did the children take notice.
The Sanchez triplets, along with their siblings and mother Crystal, received their individualized backpacks, stuffed with everything required by their school district. It didn’t hurt that the backpacks were in their favorite color pink, and adorned with cartoon characters and superheroes. They were giddy, removing each item and showing them off to one another. 
This is the fifth year social work service has held the back-to-school supply drive, which is by now is a well-oiled machine. The drive was started by social worker Ingrid Bethel-Constable who saw the need. “I just couldn’t let one child in our program go to school without at least basic supplies,” Bethel-Constable said. “My biggest reward is the look of joy on the children’s faces, as well as the relief and gratitude from the parents.”
Artorra and Charlyssa Duplechain shared some of that relief. “This program is great,” Charlyssa said. “It is a financial burden when the beginning of school comes around and you get stressed not only having to purchase everything, but pick everything up.” Artorra added that if parents are not able to come pick up their children’s backpacks, the staff and volunteers at the Homeless Veterans Program will deliver to your home. A group of social workers standing with the school supplies they collected

The group of social workers responsible for the fifth annual back-to-school supply drive. They began collecting supplies back in June and provided enough to make 130 backpacks for the children of homeless Veterans.

The Duplechain’s represented a growing need this year. Bethel Constable says the need fluctuates because families sometimes leave the homeless program and that is a good thing.
Artorra himself was relieved to receive his children’s school items because he recently went back to school himself. “It’s just a huge relief for me because I have to concentrate on exams,” Artorra said.
Throughout Saturday afternoon, families came by for a little lunch, talk about the upcoming school year and left with all the tools they need to be successful.   

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