hope for youth
Hope For Youth volunteers prepare gifts for homeless kids.

Founded more than 50 years ago, Hope For Youth provides support and residential services to youth and families across Long Island. The nonprofit kicks off the holiday season with its fourth annual Hope for the Holidays drive.

HFY staff members began coordinating their drive in November to distribute gifts to youth, from toddlers to 19-year-olds, in time for the holidays. Holiday Wish List 2020, a public Amazon wish list, gives donors and contributors options for items to donate. This year’s wish list features board games, action figures, hair accessories, and clothing, among other gifts. 

“Hopefully we get all of our deliveries in one week so they can be rapidly distributed to the kids for the holidays,” Tenaya Parchment, development associate and head of the holiday drive, said. 

Donors include local businesses, schools, community organizations, and churches. St. Frances de Chantal Parish Social Ministry in Wantagh is a major yearly contributor to the drive. Parishioners purchase gifts for the children, many of whom reside in group homes, and the ministry gives them to HFY for distribution. 

“It’s a beautiful experience, seeing the level of people caring,” said Ele-Ruth Melendez, director of the Parish Social Ministry. “There’s a lot of love and I see it, so that’s the best part.”

With more than 700,000 unaccompanied minors experiencing homelessness nationwide each year, HFY offers temporary homes to children in need of traditional, therapeutic, or emergency foster care settings. Most youth are referred by both Nassau and Suffolk Departments of Social Services. Training and certification programs are also provided to foster care families through HFY.

The coronavirus outbreak caused substantial spikes in national unemployment, with homelessness also skyrocketing, but HFY’s 24/7 Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter has remained open. The shelter program, located in Babylon, offers workshops and tutoring to teenagers and young adults, 14 to 20 years old. Facing a $100,000 cut to their 2021 budget, HFY is organizing a Save Our Shelter fundraiser to service displaced and homeless youth in Suffolk County.

“Keeping the doors open in our shelter is a priority,” Parchment said. “It’s the only teen shelter of its kind in Suffolk County.”

HFY is not seeing volunteers for the holiday drive this year, but more information on services or contributions can be found on its website, hfyny.org

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