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Nonprofits feeling strain to help evacuees

Posted on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 6:00 am

By Rachel Christian
Staff Writer
Local churches and outreach groups said they are feeling the strain to provide resources to citizens of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands displaced by Hurricane Maria.
So, Osceola Connected — a network of nonprofits and church-based organizations — met Tuesday afternoon to address how to tackle the challenge of providing food to hundreds of new students.
Currently, Osceola Connected provides food to approximately 1,000 kids each week.
The group expects that number to grow in upcoming weeks.
“With the number of students coming into our county on a daily basis, we can actually say we’re in a crisis situation,” Osceola Connected Chair Sharon Sikorski said.
According to Sikorski, Boggy Creek Elementary contacted her last week, asking for food for 70 new students. Some of them are displaced evacuees.
Sikorski said Boggy Creek is one of several schools that have reached out to her since evacuees began arriving in Osceola County.
Osceola Connected has organized meal-packing events and provided food to students in-need since the group formed in 2012.
Osceola Connected asked for help from pastors and other church leaders interested in lending a helping hand.
“We need money to buy the food so the kids in Osceola County don’t go hungry over the weekend,” Sikorski said after the meeting. “It can cost up to $300,000 to provide food for a school’s worth of children each month.”
The network of nonprofits has seen a slight decrease in kids needing heir services in recent years, but that has changed in recent months, officials said.
“We’re getting calls now from the schools because of all the kids coming in from the hurricanes,” said Gloria Niec of the Celebration Foundation. “We thought with the economy and jobs getting better, we would see a reduction in the need for our services, but now, we’re going to start getting hit really, really hard.”
Osceola Connected is asking for help from the community and members said they are preparing to assist the sudden influx of new students as best it can.
For more information, contact Sikorski at 321-624-6978.