Pasco Women’s Shelter (PWS), a 20-bed facility located in Hudson that provides emergency and transitional housing for homeless women and their children, recently attended a ‘Back to School Bash’ on Saturday, August 6, 2016 that was hosted by Ridgewood High School (New Port Richey). In addition to educating the community about the shelters’ mission and service to women in need from the community, it was also an opportunity to connect with other local service providers in an attempt to further enhance the program for its residents given third party support services are critical to their transition out of homelessness into permanent housing.
The event was organized by Chasco Elementary located in Port Richey. A team of thirteen dedicated education professionals worked nearly 4 months on the event. This group consisted of Principal Michele Dilorio and Assistant Principal Jen Jaworski as well as Coraliz Fontanez, M. Ed., the school counselor, the school nurse, the school psychologist and 8 other teachers. The 3 year old event ‘s primary purpose is to provide students and parents with the resources, basic needs and materials necessary for them to reach their academic goals. One part of those resources includes informing students’ families about public and private service providers, other resources, and opportunities for volunteer service that are available in the surrounding community. Some of the twenty-five plus vendors in attendance were: Healthy Kids, the Pasco Sheriff’s Department, AmSkills (American Manufacturing Skills), the Health Department, United Way, Great Clips, Marchman Technical College, and Martial Smart Ultimate Self-Defense Family Center.
Nearly 300 families attended the 3-hour event. They received everything from coupons from vendors like Martial Smart for introductory lessons to free haircuts given by Marchman Technical College students. According to Ms. Fontanez “Families were extremely thankful and happy that their children were able to get ready for this coming school year.”
Echoing a similar sentiment, Pasco Women’s Shelter’s Julie Kolb said the event was a “’one stop shop’ for the parents and children to get back to school items and resources that they will need for school. It was also great for bringing together the community as the vendors were able to network with other agencies and see who is offering what.”
One example of how vendor outreach paid off for Julie’s residents is that the Martial Smart Studio of Safety Harbor agreed to visit the shelter and provide several free self-defense classes to the women. Headlining that effort will be internationally renowned martial arts competitor and actor, Cynthia Rothrock, who will speak to the ladies in early September. Ms. Rothrock holds seven Black belts in various Far Eastern martial disciplines and has appeared in over 70 martial arts movies starting in Hong Kong (the capital of the genre) and is a five-time World Champion in forms and weapons (non-combat-oriented competition open to both men and women and focusing on fluidity of movement versus fighting) from 1981 to 1985.
Efforts like these illustrate the adage that good deeds are repaid in turn with good things (“God will repay each one according to his deeds” – Rom 2:6). In trying to educate others about and promote the needs of its residents, Pasco Women’s Shelter is now able to provide another uplifting, affirming, and confidence-building service to its residents that can only aid their return to self-reliance.