When 12-year-old Sydney Skow of Clayton was asked to perform community service through her leadership class during the fall term at Diablo View Middle School, her wheels started to turn. This is when she remembered the Love-a-Child Homeless and Recovery Shelter for women and children in Bay Point. Sydney’s church had previously donated items to the shelter and she wanted to follow up on those gifts.
Sydney presented the idea of a Halloween “costume drive” to her teacher and the project quickly became an all-school push. “Most kids and parents at the shelter can’t go out and buy a costume (for Halloween),” says Sydney. “When their friends at school say, ‘I’m going to be this for Halloween,’ they can’t really talk about that.”
Sydney organized all the logistics of the drive, with the help of fellow leadership students at Diablo View. Student liaisons spread the word to teachers and throughout campus, asking for everyone to bring donated costumes that would be given to the shelter. These student leaders then collected them from individual classrooms. Once everything was collected, Sydney and her friends organized the costumes so they were ready for her and her parents to make an evening drop-off at the shelter. As a fun incentive, students who brought donations were entered into a raffle for free cookies and “early lunch” passes.
Nearly 100 costumes of all shapes, sizes, colors and varieties were delivered to smiling, happy children. “They were all really happy,” said Sydney. “I think it made them feel like someone was looking out for them for something that they probably might not have had last year or the year before.”
Shawnteanee, a mother at the shelter holding her young daughter, echoed this thought. “There are moms like me who can’t afford (costumes),” she said, “and there are a lot of kids out here who’re unfortunate and can’t get costumes.”
Love-a-Child has been in existence since 1984, when it was founded to serve women and their children who need help with substance recovery, homelessness, job training and educational support. The goal for the women who enter the shelter is to get them on their feet and build a foundation of independence, which sometimes means transitional housing or other means of support. There are 86 beds on site and the facility serves three meals each day to the women and children.
Sydney’s efforts have landed her on local television news stations, and are bringing a lot of attention to the youngster and her classmates at Pine Hollow. But upon finishing this project, Sydney realized something – it just feels great to help other people. She put in many hours of planning, motivating classmates, organizing donations and delivering costumes.
“It made me feel really good (to do this) and it made me feel like I want to help out more in the community,” she said. “It made me feel really proud of myself.”