Youth Hope to Help Homeless

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Project Hope Alliance Executive Director Jennifer Friend  talks with guests inside a 214-square-foot interactive motel exhibit displayed at the "Hope for 500" kickoff event. — Photo by Shannon Vermeeren
Project Hope Alliance Executive Director Jennifer Friend talks with guests inside a 214-square-foot interactive motel exhibit displayed at the “Hope for 500” kickoff event.
— Photo by Shannon Vermeeren

The fight to end homelessness for Orange County kids is one step closer now, thanks to another Orange County kid.

Samantha Schroff, president of Newport Harbor High School’s Youth for Hope club, will present a $25,000 donation on Tuesday to Project Hope Alliance, an Orange County-based organization working to end homelessness for children and families.

Schroff was inspired to help after touring the nonprofit’s headquarters in Costa Mesa last year.

“Learning that one in six children in Orange County are living in poverty and that 28,031 homeless and motel children are enrolled in Orange County schools, including at my own school, I couldn’t even begin to comprehend that heartbreaking reality,” Schroff said.

It was such a “harsh contrast to the typical image of Orange County” that she knew she had to help.

Schroff and NHHS principal, Sean Boulton, will present the donation to Susi Eckelmann, Programs and Outreach Coordinator at PHA, at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday in front of the school sign, at the corner of Irvine Avenue and 15th Street.

“I’m grateful to Samantha (Schroff) for making Orange County an even more wonderful and loving place to live,” Eckelmann said.

Project Hope isn’t just giving homeless children hope, it’s about giving them a basis for hope through education, housing and by demonstrating in a real way that their futures are not limited by their parents’ economic circumstances, said Jennifer Friend, PHA executive director, in a press release.

“Under Samantha’s leadership, the Newport Harbor High School Youth for Hope Club is helping to make that possible and we are so grateful for all that they are doing,” Friend said.

Schroff was telling a family friend, a local business owner who wishes to remain anonymous, about Project Hope and her ideas to help over the holidays. The family friend was moved by “her heart and her vision,” Eckelmann said, and donated the $25,000 to Project Hope through Schroff’s club.

The majority of the funds ($20,000) will go toward the Hope for 500 campaign, the organization’s yearlong effort to end homelessness for 500 kids in Orange County by the end of 2014. The organization has moved 103 kids out of homelessness since Jan. 1.

The rest will go toward Stuff-A-Truck event Schroff was inspired to do after seeing it in action at a Second Harvest event.

The Mother’s Day Weekend Stuff-A-Truck program will be held at St. Andrews Church in Newport Beach.

Schroff and her Youth For Hope peers will be assembling pre-filled grocery bags, each valued at $10, to be available for purchase May 8 and 9 between 3-6 p.m. and again on May 10 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Once a donor buys the bag, they will literally “stuff the truck” with all groceries then being donated to the families that Project Hope Alliance serves.

“There is an incredible group of young people in the community,” Eckelmann said.

“As a youth, I remember thinking I had a lot of passion, but not a lot of authority to create change,” Eckelmann said. Young adults like Schroff are “creating a culture and a community that care for kids who are homeless, that care for kids that are in need… (Working to) change hearts and change each other.”

“When I see a junior in high school gather enough money to end homelessness for so many children it’s a call of action for the rest of us,” she added. “(To ask ourselves,) ‘What can we do with the authority and heart that we have?’”

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