Michelle Small of the Bellingham Giving Circle received the Molina Community Champions Award from the Molina Healthcare Foundation for her work on behalf of Bellingham Public Schools’ homeless unaccompanied youth. Molina received 112 nominations for programs throughout the state of Washington and Michelle was one of seven to receive this award.
The Community Champions Award is given to those who focus their work on the most vulnerable in their community. Michelle and the Giving Circle create opportunities for students to feel equal to their peers. They understand that school is often the most normal part of a homeless youth’s day and they seek to provide tools to help homeless students succeed in school.
“The services Michelle and the Giving Circle provide Bellingham’s homeless unaccompanied youth allows students to focus on academics instead of worrying about what they are going to wear or what they are going to eat,” said homeless support coordinator, Roxana Parise. “The Giving Circle provided computer tablets for homeless youth to borrow for the academic year. For a student who doesn’t know where they will sleep each night, having a computer tablet offers them the opportunity to always have the means to do their homework.”
The Giving Circle works with school district staff to provide resources to unaccompanied youth. This has included items such as sleeping bags, school supplies, clothes, use of laptop computers, food, holiday gifts, laundry vouchers and has even provided assistance in college tuition to help those in need.
Bellingham Giving Circle began several years ago when Michelle and five of her friends got together one evening for dinner. Part of their conversation focused on the plight of homeless students and unaccompanied youth and how community members could help. As a result of that discussion, the Bellingham Giving Circle was formed. It has evolved into an expanded group that holds monthly potluck meetings on the third Thursday of the month. Additionally, throughout the year, Friendraising events are held to spread the word about this organization’s good work. The next event is a luncheon planned for Feb. 18, 2016.