A mother and her children arrive to register for support services in a community where she will be working in the strawberry fields. Imagine their joy when they are invited to pick out toys and clothes and other necessities to get established in their new community.
Farm workers and their families have a hard life, planting and picking food destined for our tables. Long working days, challenging living conditions and traveling to pick the next field all contribute to a transient life with disruptions in education and other obstacles preventing them from escaping poverty. FishHawk and its compassionate neighbors have enabled many families to receive gently used donations of furniture, appliances, clean clothing and shoes, children’s books, bicycles, toys and so much more to help meet basic needs and bring joy to their lives. Two FishHawk residents leading this effort are Linda Bird and Barbara Howard, and they are helping two vulnerable groups in different but extremely meaningful ways.
Howard began volunteering with Hillsborough County Public Schools’ Migrant Education Program in March 2021. By April 2022, with overwhelming community support, she started the Facebook page You Matter to Me – Lithia, FL. It is an all-ages, all-volunteer group supporting students and their families who qualify for the federal Title I Migrant Education Program for ages 3-21. You Matter to Me helps provide basic needs identified by staff (beds, clothing, etc.) while also reaching out directly to students in the program with projects designed for each grade level. Last year, projects touched over 2,400 migrant students in our school district with two in-person events.
Bird, a volunteer child advocate from Fort Lauderdale, moved to FishHawk three years ago and learned from Howard where some of the need is in the community. Bird has teamed up with RCMA, a nonprofit organization operating to help families from crib to high school with 66 child care centers, 19 family child care homes and three charter schools in 21 Florida counties. Weekly donations are delivered from FishHawk to the child care centers, where families in need can ‘shop’ for free for necessities. Large donated items have been picked up directly by the staff and families.
Both efforts operate solely on donations and volunteers, and they would like to thank the FishHawk community and beyond for embracing the migrant community with donations and countless hours of service.
Thank you to Carousel Kids Consignment and the Newsome Chorus for their generous donations to RCMA, and thank you to FishHawk-Riverview Rotary, FishHawk Storage, U-Haul corporate, The Junior League of Tampa, I Support the Girls – Tampa Bay, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, church groups and school clubs for their support of the Hillsborough County Public Schools’ Migrant Education Program and You Matter to Me.
In a joint statement, both Bird and Howard explained, “We want workers and their families to know that we see them and appreciate the grueling work they do. We want to provide them with a little bit of encouragement and support while they are in our area and know that there are people out there who care.”
For more information, please visit You Matter to Me – Lithia, FL on Facebook to connect with Howard or email email@example.com to connect with Bird.