Mendocino County Office of Education Supports Homeless Youth During the Holidays

Gift drive flier

Every winter, Mendocino County Office of Education (MCOE) employees go beyond their usual duties and spread holiday cheer by fulfilling gift requests for youth who are experiencing homelessness. This year the requests for gifts surged to over 300, a historically high number.

;As part of the holiday display in the MCOE River Campus lobby, MCOE Business Services staff Hillary Dunn and Rylee Bennett created a festive pegboard with individual tags that detail each Mendocino County homeless youth’s age and interests. Foster and Homeless Youth Services Manager Blythe Post and staff member Brady Nord manage a corresponding logbook for sponsors to indicate the tag number chosen. Almost as quickly as Post and her team could hang the tags, MCOE staff began to claim them-enthusiastically volunteering to purchase gifts for children in every corner of Mendocino County.

Community members are invited to sponsor a child this holiday season. Simply stop by the MCOE River Campus lobby and pick a gift tag. Each gift should cost approximately $25. To donate funds directly, please send a personal check, money order, or cashier’s check to the Mendocino County Office of Education or MCOE, with attention to Blythe Post at 2240 Old River Road, Ukiah, CA 95482. Please note “Holiday Drive” in the memo section. A $25 donation will purchase a gift for one child. The gift drive is active until December 15, at which point gifts will be distributed.

Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools Nicole Glentzer said, “The holiday season can be an especially challenging time for families facing homelessness and other instability. It's really an honor to work with kind people who want to help these families in our communities.”

Post explained that homeless students often become more aware of what they lack during December when their family cannot afford winter coats, or when friends at school share holiday plans that involve travel, gifts, and family gatherings. This was the original inspiration for the MCOE gift-giving campaign.

“Leading up to Winter Break, things get pretty busy around MCOE. In addition to our regular work supporting students experiencing homelessness or in foster care, we catalog and distribute seasonal donations. Thanks to the generous support of numerous MCOE staff, community members, and especially the Med/Surg and ER departments of Ukiah Valley Adventist Health, Selzer Realty & Associates, and longstanding sponsors Ukiah Kiwanis Club, we distributed 260 new winter coats to Mendocino County homeless youth in November,” Post said.

Year-round, Post and her team coordinate services for homeless youth, connecting schools, social services, community agencies, and the faith community so these children do not fall through the cracks.

Post noted that hundreds of children across Mendocino County lack a consistent and adequate nighttime residence. Homeless youth might face difficulties because their housing doesn't meet their physical and mental needs. She said, “People become homeless for many different reasons-job loss, a catastrophic illness, mental health problems, substance abuse, and natural disasters.”

In addition to providing practical basic assistance like food, clothes, and school supplies, the MCOE Foster and Homeless Youth Services team works with school districts to support programs that connect homeless students with a consistent, caring adult. Post emphasized, “Studies show that when homeless youth connect with just one positive adult, it can have a significant impact on their lives. It increases their resilience and gives them hope. And if you have hope, you can overcome a lot.”