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YODA drive provides supplies to DHR

By Staff
Kim West
The conference room at the Franklin County Department of Human Resources was a beehive of activity Tuesday afternoon as student volunteers participating in a Youth Organized for Disaster Action service learning project brought in donated items and filled dozens of canvas bags alongside officials from Franklin County Community Education and the DHR.
Beginning last December, various student organizations at each high school in Franklin County sponsored a school-wide "YODA We Care" drive to collect personal supplies for children who are removed from homes with methamphetamine production.
"All the county schools participated, and the 'We Care YODA' emblem (on the bags) was designed at Tharptown High School in their art class," said Luanne Vickery, intervention specialist for the FCCE. "Each school collected different items for the YODA bags, and students were asked to bring them in.
"One school collected pens and pencils, while another collected toiletries. The bags have anything children would need, but they might not have with them (when they are removed from a meth home)."
In the past DHR specialists were able to purchase items for the children, but due to budget cuts, the department now relies on donations to provide the needed supplies. DHR officials estimated that between 45-50 children each year are removed from meth homes in Franklin County.
"In the past we were able to go to the store and spend money on the children, and we spent $200 per child," said Bonnie Willmarth, supervisor for foster care at DHR. "But we can't do that now because of a lack of funding."
YODA is a service-learning program that helps young people prepare their families, schools, and communities for unexpected emergencies and disasters, according to the Institute for Global Education and Service Learning, which founded the project in 2004. Alabama is one of only five states to offer YODA, which also addresses community safety concerns by engaging students in service-learning activities in their schools and communities.
Sue Entrekin, who supervises prevention education for Community Education, said the drive was a success and provided students with the opportunity to serve the community.
"With the YODA grant, students learn something and also give back and serve their community," she said. "We were very pleased with the response from the students."
Franklin County was awarded a three-year grant beginning the 2006-07 school year for up to $5,000 the first year and $10,000 in the second and third years. In addition to the DHR supply drive, the FCCE has also used its YODA grant to provide Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training to students, give each school disaster preparedness kits and sponsor a program that allows investigators Lt. Mike Franklin and Sgt. Jason Holcomb of the Franklin County Sheriff's Department to discuss the dangers of meth with county students.
Entrekin said the kits contain items that would be necessary in case of an emergency.
"Each school received two prepared emergency bags, and they included emergency radios that are connected to the county EMA office and local and state officials," Entrekin said. "The bags also contain bullhorns, megaphones, weather radios, wire cutters, first aid supplies, a shovel and a hard hat – things people would physically need in an emergency."