Meyerland resident Kay Wasden was looking to donate to Westbury High School and Fondren Middle School the college test prep books her children no longer need. But she quickly found out the students’ needs are much more basic.
School staffers said they would accept the books — and computers that had been used by private high school students — that she and other members of her book club offered.
But when Winter Storm Uri arrived in 2021, Wasden said, she received an unexpected text from a school “wraparound specialist” asking for food and grocery store gift cards.
“Our families are in trouble,” the text said.
“I was taken aback, but I said, ‘Yes,’ ” Wasden said. After the freeze, she said, she and her friend decided to work with the two specialists from Westbury High and Fondren Middle to find out what the students really needed.
“We worked with them the remainder of the school year, collecting and donating clothing, food, books and other needed items,” she said. “The following year, we expanded to work with elementary schools in the Westbury feeder, and began working also with Madison High School, Worthing High School and Attucks Middle. “
By July 2022, Wraparound Resources, founded by Wasden, received its nonprofit status. It now serves 57 Houston Independent School District schools and keeps adding more to the list.
There are many organizations that do great work for HISD schools, Wasden said. “We try to fill the gaps.”
Wraparound Resources deals in basic need items: food, clothing and hygiene items.
“Uniform shirts and pants, underwear, socks and shoes, deodorant, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and period supplies are all frequently requested items,” Wasden said. “Food is also one of the main needs.”
Wasden, a pianist, said she was surprised by how great the need is in Houston schools.
The nonprofit focuses on schools where 90 percent or more of the students come from economically disadvantaged homes.
“We go into the schools and form a relationship with the wraparound specialist at the school and find out what they need for their students and what they have trouble getting,” Wasden said.
The HISD Wraparound Services Department connects students and their families with community resources that address the non-academic challenges that could erode students’ ability to learn.
“Lots of organizations donate back-to-school supplies or Christmas toys. Some schools might have organizations that donate toothpaste or period supplies, but not deodorant. Some schools have a good source for food but not for clothing, and some schools have the opposite. This is why we work with the specialists to determine the particular needs for each school we serve,” Wasden said.
Wraparound Resources has just five main volunteers. Wasden serves as president. In its first six months, the nonprofit distributed 732 shirts, 554 coats, 471 deodorants, 186 tubes of toothpaste — and more.
The nonprofit even supplied soil, tools and more for a garden project at Petersen Elementary, a school that feeds into Madison High School.
How can others help?
Recently, a group of area neighbors hosted a block party where everyone had been asked to bring personal hygiene supplies for donation.
“I want people to know how easy it is to donate items! And how far donated dollars can go. For example, $11 buys a new pair of shoes for a student. $2 buys deodorant,” Wasden said.
— by Dorothy Puch Lillig