Senior High puts out the call for gift cards for its homeless students

2013-12-09T00:00:00Z 2013-12-10T07:46:05Z Senior High puts out the call for gift cards for its homeless studentsBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Sometimes a little plastic can make a big difference. 

For a fifth year, Senior High is holding its gift card drive for homeless and needy students at the school.

"The need and the seriousness of (these students') situations are so huge," said Shelli Strouf, an assistant principal at the school and the administrator overseeing the card drive. 

"They have nothing."

The gift cards show those students that the community is aware of them and their circumstances, and that they care. And that's huge, Strouf said. 

The students, many of them homeless, have been in and out of the foster system, have parents who are in jail or simply live in homes or other places where no one can afford to do Christmas. They lack basic necessities.

"The kids don't choose this," Strouf said of the students' situations.

Oftentimes, they're left to deal with the consequences of bad decisions made by the people in their lives, Strouf said. Finding small, meaningful ways to help and reach out to them during the holidays can change lives. 

"Last year, the community really came through," she said. 

Typically, the drive brings in about 300 cards. Strouf hopes for similar results this year. 

The gift cards are used to help the students meet some of their basic needs. Most of the cards given out in past years have been to stores like Wal-Mart or Target, where students can buy food and personal-hygiene products.

But every year, organizers receive cards to other places around town, like fast-food restaurants or convenience stores. Those are put to use, too, organizers said.

A card to Subway or McDonald's allows the teens to go out to lunch worry-free with their friends — a huge boost to the students' self-confidence.

For them, it's like having their own money, said Sue Runkle, SD2's homeless student coordinator. For a few moments they're not so self-conscious about being poor, she said.

Volunteers are at the school every day this week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to collect the cards. Community members also can bring gift cards by anytime during the school day and drop them off in the office.

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