Nearly a hundred members of the community turned out on a snowy, cold Thursday evening November 19th to participate in the 6th Annual Candlelight Vigil for Homeless Youth and Families at Farnsworth Park in Soldotna. Speaking to the local issue and what the Kenai Peninsula School District (KPBSD) is doing to address it Pegge Erkeneff, KPBSD communications liaison said, “We’re reaching more and more children and as of today we have 185 students enrolled in the Students In Transition (SIT) program since the beginning of the school year in August. That means these are students who are either unaccompanied K-12th grade or are with a family unit and attending school regularly but don’t know where they are staying. That’s a large number and these students are invisible to most of the community because you don’t see them on the streets like in some cities. We are doing a better job of reaching out and identifying homeless youth through the students in transition program which is specific to kids enrolled in school and then helping them find resources they need in the community,” she said.
The theme of the night of everyone can do something to help was underscored in a song written especially for the Candlelight Vigil by Vickie Tinker and Bonnie Nichols called “One Thing.” “It’s to find one thing that we can do. That’s what we invited people to do tonight whether it’s a financial donation or learning about homelessness and what happens to kids when they don’t have a safe, stable place to sleep at night, how can we make a difference and what can we do,” said Erkeneff in an interview with the Dispatch. She also told those assembled of an exciting anonymous donation that had been made from someone who lives in the Lower 48, “The Students in Transition program through the school district accepts tax deductible donations that provides services to our students and families. A donor who will remain anonymous that lives out of state heard about this event and pledged to match up to $10,000 donated between now and December 18th when school takes its winter break. So all tax deductible donations to the SIT program will be matched so could receive $20,000 to fund the SIT. When I asked him what I could say he simply said he wanted to remain anonymous but he liked making magic happen. And right now we see that with kids at Skyview having penny wars and kids at KCHS having a spaghetti feed on December 4th to raise funds for the homeless and now with this match any donation one dollar or five will be doubled, ” she said. KPBSD Supt. Sean Dusek also spoke to those assembled and encouraged everyone help meet the goal of the $10,000 match. All funds donated to the SIT program through the KPBSD will be earmarked specifically for serving homeless youth attending school in the district according to Dusek. Checks may be dropped off at the KPBSD offices on Binkley Street in Soldotna. The Spaghetti feed at Kenai Central High School will be held Friday, December 4th from 6:00pm to 7:30pm. More information is available on the KPBSD website.