For a number of years, GICCA has received grants from United Way of Coastal Georgia, and the school has used the money to support community service projects.
“Due to COVID-19, we are unable to have our kids working in the community, and when I contacted the United Way, mentioning we were interested in a project to support U.S. veterans, Janelle (Harvey, director of community impact for United Way) suggested the hygiene bags for homeless veterans,” said Lori Peacock, CEO of the Career Academy. “We felt passionate about this cause, and were referred to Mike Williams.”
Williams is the founder and president of GY6, Inc., a nonprofit that supports local homeless veterans. Peacock contacted him with the proposed project, and Williams was on board.
GICCA handled the purchasing of the items, with some suggestions from Williams, like adding baby wipes to the bags. The school’s principal Joseph Depenhart suggested hot sauce, which in cold weather is a warming addition to many types of food.
“It’s kind of an old military trick,” Williams said. “I didn’t even think about it, but he did. He’s a veteran as well.”
Items like what each bag included — shampoo, body wash, foot powder, mouthwash — often are not easily on hand for many homeless, Williams said. But these items can make a big difference when someone needs to go into a situation like a job interview, he said.
“A lot of people think that the homeless veterans draw a VA check and the VA takes care of them, and that’s not the case,” he said. “So they are left to do their best to get a job, and that’s why you see all the panhandling … And a lot of them, when they get the money, they’re more worried about how they’re going to eat versus getting foot powder.”
The Well, a day shelter for the homeless in downtown Brunswick, offers a place to take a shower or do laundry, but Williams said homeless individuals staying on the county’s outskirts sometimes do not travel that far for those services.
Williams joined the students in the packing effort last week, and he shared information with them about his nonprofit’s work.
GY6 makes contact with homeless veterans and helps them find temporary shelter as well as employment. The goal is to help them eventually reach self-sustainability, Williams said.
GY6 provides supplies, like hygiene items, to the area’s homeless veterans usually on an as-needed basis. These bags will be distributed during an effort to survey all the homeless veterans in Glynn County, hopefully in coordination with this year’s Point-In-Time Count, which was changed this year to a sheltered versus unsheltered count. Williams is concerned the count will leave out critical data and plans to count unsheltered homeless veterans as well.
He said he’ll hand out the bags each time he or another volunteer surveys a homeless veteran.
“I’m trying to get a count of the veterans here, an actual face-to-face count, to try to get them all, and when I go to count these guys and I hand them a sheet for them to fill out, when they get done filling it out I’m going to hand them one of these bags,” Williams told a group of students who volunteered in the packing effort.
The students worked in small groups and in assembly line fashion, circling the tables where the items were neatly organized and placing them in the bags one by one, until all the nearly 100 bags were packed.
GY6 also serves some women who are homeless veterans, and GICCA’s staff and students made sure to back bags specifically for these women with additional feminine hygiene products.
GICCA staff partnered with the career technical student organization (CTSO) advisors and asked their student members to help put the bags together.
“One of the goals of student membership in a CTSO is outreach into the community through community service projects,” Peacock said. “The plight of homeless veterans in Glynn County has been reported frequently in the news with the projects underway to build tiny houses for veterans. GICCA believed supporting this community project in our own unique way, by providing hygiene bags, was a way to not only educate our students on the plight of homeless veterans, but also demonstrate their interest in supporting their community.”