TEEN program builds positive partnerships

Lend a Helping Hand, a local charity, teams up with TEEN program to help students succeed

Helping Hand resized 2Once a week, Melinda, a high school senior attending the Teen Entering Education Now (TEEN) program at Centralia College, brings her one and half year old daughter with her to volunteer at Lend a Helping Hand. Organizing toys and clothes, unpacking and packing boxes, moving and sorting donations, Melinda is one of the local charity’s faithful workers.

“She is just dynamite,” says Marla Miller, who helps run the Chehalis-based non-profit.

Susan Olsen, the foundation’s director agrees, speaking highly of Melinda and referring to her as their “chief helper.”

The two retired women who run Lend a Helping Hand have forged a special relationship with Melinda and her daughter. They rely on her for many jobs, including moving boxes that are too heavy for them to lift. In exchange, Melinda often goes home with bags of donated clothes for her daughter. The blessings flow in both directions. Melinda, who started volunteering over a year ago, loves spending time with Marla and Susan as well.

“I just like what they do. They are nice ladies. I just like coming here to help them,” she said.

Lend a Helping Hand has been partnering with Centralia College’s TEEN program for about five years. Many of the student volunteers are teen parents, like Melinda, who have been encouraged by helping others. They know that many of the clothes, schoolbooks, and toys donated to Lend a Helping Hand will be distributed to foster kids and disabled children—kids who have had tough lives, like many of them.

“Almost every single teen that has come here has really put their heart into it and done good work for us,” Miller shares.

The ladies often send these young parents and students home with clothes and other much needed items as a tangible thank you for their time. In addition, Lend a Helping Hand contributes items to the TEEN program’s in-class store, where students can shop using points earned in the high school completion/parent education program.

Initially, students in the TEEN program volunteered in the community as a required part of the career class taught by Program Manager Kristi Jewell. After seeing how successful these community partnerships were for the teens, the staff now encourages all students to take advantage of the community service opportunities available. According to Jewell, this is one of the rewarding parts of the TEEN program with many students serving, giving, and being blessed in return.

Lend a Helping Hand is not the only organization teaming up with the TEEN program. Students have also volunteered at Gather Church, where they have helped sort and organize food and clothes. In return, Gather Church provides classroom space for the fathering and English classes as well as donates bread for lunches. Other community partners include the Salvation Army and several local food banks. Not only do these opportunities provide students with hands-on experience they can list on college applications and resumes, they also offer something more valuable—positive relationships.

For more information about the TEEN program, call 360-736-9391, ext. 341.


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