One year during Cape Henlopen’s holiday gift drive, a student was asked what gift she wanted most.
“A pillow,” she said. “I’ve been using my backpack. And one of those long dresses women wear to bed at night.”
A little investigation showed many Cape students slept without pillows, blankets, even beds.
Cape school district homeless liaisons David McDowell and Shawna Steinmann were managing the holiday gift drive for homeless and needy children through the Cape Community Cares program, but they saw a need to expand.
Last year, they launched a pillow and blanket drive called Sleep in Heavenly Peace, collecting 350 pillows and 56 beds for students in need.
“It tugged at our hearts to see children and their parents hugging the pillows,” McDowell said.
This year’s drive expanded to accept new pajamas, sleeping bags and hoodies, which may be dropped off at partnering businesses by Tuesday, Dec. 11. Items must be new, McDowell said.
The district’s holiday gift drive for homeless and needy students is also in full swing. McDowell said Cape currently has 130 homeless students, those who have no fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.
They might be living in a hotel or with relatives or friends, Steinmann said.
“Or they’re in shelters, a friend’s garage, campgrounds or cars,” she said. “It can get pretty cold.”
McDowell said a total of 317 children in need have been identified this year throughout the district by school nurses, teachers or social workers.
Students complete a wish list, stating their age, favorite color, clothing size, most-needed item and a gift idea for sponsors such as community members or church groups while they shop.
While donated supplies last, their families also receive a laundry basket loaded with an age-appropriate game, hot chocolate, popcorn, as well as detergent, paper towels, toilet paper and cleaning items.
McDowell said community response has been overwhelming.
“The community comes to us and asks how to help,” McDowell said. “You feel so blessed to be in a great community because people just want to help.”
McDowell said Cape Community Cares collects donations year-round for students and families in need. Call 302-645-6686 or go to facebook.com/CapecommunityCares.
“The holidays come and go, but poverty stays,” he said.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace donation drop-off locations:
Atlantic Millwork in Lewes, YMCA and Debbie Reed Team in Rehoboth: new pillows, pillowcases and blankets
Nicola’s Pizza in Rehoboth: new pajamas
Millman’s Appliance in Lewes: new sleeping bags and hoodies
All items must be new and delivered by Tuesday, Dec. 11