Maurena Rotering proudly displays the safety curtains she created for schools in Hillsborough County.

By Ava Benedict

“Your passion develops over time, but your curiosity is what leads you down a particular path,” said Barbara Howard, founder of You Matter to Me.

Curiosity is what drove Howard to learn more about the struggles migrant families face as they move throughout the year. This led Howard to create the organization You Matter to Me in the spring of 2022, focusing on supporting migrant students and their families who have come to the area for agricultural work. Howard said that a big reason she created You Matter to Me was to educate people on the migrant farming lifestyle.

“I saw a huge need in the migrant community, … but on the same side of the coin, it was to educate,” Howard said.

Two-hundred and sixteen volunteers participated in a variety of projects this year, including creating goody bags for Valentine’s Day, snack bags for spring break and transporting furniture to homes. Volunteer Sally Wanner recalled how excited migrant students were to receive the goods made for them.

“It’s very fun for me to see how excited they are to have these things,” said Wanner.

Wanner has helped bring furniture and other goods to migrant families throughout the area, providing a sense of normalcy for them as they move from place to place with limited help. Maurena Rotering, another You Matter to Me volunteer, has participated in countless projects since its creation. She has sewn curtains, put together baskets and goody bags and donated clothing to support families in need.

Volunteers are always needed, and one of the best projects for those who want to help are welcome bags, which contain necessities for moving migrant families. Toothbrushes, hair products and toilet paper are just some of the goods distributed through these bags. These bags make a huge impact on the lives of migrant families.

But it is not just those receiving help who have benefitted from the organization’s work. Ana Dans and her family donated toys and clothes to migrant students through the program, an experience that allowed Dans’ children to learn more about the challenges migrant families face. Both Wanner and Rotering agree that volunteering has improved their lives and provided them with an outlet to give back to those in need.

For more information on You Matter to Me and how to get involved, visit its Facebook page at You Matter to Me – Lithia, FL.

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