Sometimes teachers will notice a student who never seems to change his clothes or is still wearing flip flops in the winter. Sometimes kids are just struggling in another area of their life and a counselor will send them to see Gayle Beck, a Fox C-6 School District social worker. And Beck is there to help however she can.
Beck’s main job as the district’s only social worker is to help families and homeless students who have needs stretching beyond academic issues. She doesn’t have a budget to directly aid families, only a list of resources in Arnold and Jefferson County where she can send families for assistance.
But a lot of time she helps students out of her own pocket. In her office she has a box of soup and inexpensive food she can send back with a homeless student to help him out. She told Patch she helped another student by giving her a cheap alarm clock so she could get up in time to catch the bus.
Once a 15-year-old mother told Beck she didn’t have clothes for her premature baby. So Beck sent out a call for help to the Fox staff. She was rewarded with sacks of gently baby used clothes for the young mom.
Beck realized she could help her needy Arnold students even more by tapping into her own social network in Fenton, where she lives.
“I had this idea because my kids outgrow their clothes. I always thought, gee, I wish I had someone to pass these really nice clothes on to," Beck said. "They’re hardly worn out. So I decided there must be other parents who felt the same way.”
She sent an email to all the contacts she had met through her own three children, who attend Rockwood schools.
“I sent it to Uthoff Valley PTO, Rockwood South’s PTO, to hockey parents, dance parents, cheerleading parents. I sent it to everyone,” she said. Fifty-three Fenton parents responded to the plea with a promise to help. Then, when she runs across needy students, she’ll email ages and sizes to her Fenton contact group, who dig through their own closets for outgrown items that fit the bill.
She then lets needy students select clothes from her stash when she has a counseling session with them. The kids can quietly tuck the clothes into their backpacks to take home, without anyone else needing to know.
She also receives help from Rockwood Summit, which donates unclaimed lost and found clothes to her project. She said she couldn’t take lost and found items from Fox schools, in case a student recognized their own lost items on a fellow classmate. She plans to ask Rockwood South and Summit if they’d like to take Fox’s unclaimed lost and found clothes as an exchange to help needy kids in both districts.
This year, Beck convinced the school to give her a closet in the library to store all the donated clothes she accumulates. She takes all sizes now and works with a mom at Seckman to distribute clothes to needy kids throughout the district.
She said she has about 10 homeless high schoolers that she tries to keep tabs on and help out as best she can. Their parents have abandoned them, or they’ve hit 18 and are able to legally leave a bad situation. Sometimes staying on a friend’s couch, or in a homeless shelter, is a better option for them as they finish school. Beck said she would like to do so much more for them if she just had the funding, but for now, helping them get a warm coat and few pairs of jeans will have to do.
If you’d like to help Gayle Beck find winter clothes for needy kids in the Fox School District, you can contact her at 636-296-5210, ext. 2361.