Max isn’t the only one. Since last October, dozens of special-education students enrolled in the district work program called Gateway have been packaging an impressive 200 care bags per week for The Network of Care foundation, which provides the bags to families with hospitalized children.
“It’s been a great fit for these students,” said Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Gene Clare. “It’s been a great fit for Network of Care and it’s been great for these students, who get some hands-on experience with their vocational skills. It’s certainly benefited everyone.”
And it’s a relationship that works. This year the Network of Care delivered its 100,000th meal bag since its inception in 2004, and according to Network of Care Executive Director Janet Frazier, it’s a number that could never have been reached without the help and dedication of these students.
“Honestly, I don’t know what we would have done without them,” said Frazier. “They have worked so hard and so well. Really, it’s just been an amazing thing.”
The Network of Care is a nonprofit organization that delivers nourishing bags of snacks and meals to pediatric units, ICU nurseries and trauma centers. For those who lack the time, energy or presence of mind to look after their own basic needs when a family member is hospitalized, Network provides not only the food, but support.
Janet Frazier and her husband Jim founded the organization in 2004 following the tragic car crash that killed their daughter Stephanie and left their daughter Lindsey in critical condition. While grieving over their loss and tending to the needs of their surviving daughter, food was not something the Fraziers thought about until a nurse brought out her own brown-bag sandwich and shared it with an exhausted Janet. And the seed for The Network of Care was planted.
The Gateway program is designed to help special-education students between 18 and 22 hone their work skills in a variety of areas, toward the goal of finding a place in the workforce. The idea to meld the Gateway program with Network of Care came about when longtime friends Clare and Frazier were discussing Frazier’s need and Clare’s program.
The program has been so successful that other special-needs students at Heritage and Deer Valley high schools have also been bagging for the Network of Care, allowing the organization to distribute 2,000 bags per month.
“It’s really been a beneficial thing for our students,” said Clare. “And is something that builds these students’ self-esteem as well as their skills. They feel they’re doing important work – and they are.”
For more information on The Network of Care, visit www.thenetworkofcare.org.