By Lizzie Thomas | Staff Writer
The Magnolia Foundation jumped into Giving Tuesday with the largest gift The Cove, an organization for homeless teenagers in Waco, has been given in its three-year existence.
“To see how prominent youth homelessness is in our very own backyard is truly heartbreaking,” said Lyle Mason, Magnolia Foundation executive director. “Our hope is that our friends and neighbors will join us in supporting The Cove and the most vulnerable youth in our community.”
Kelly Atkinson, executive director of The Cove, said in a press release that the gift would help meet the needs of the students they serve and would help them set up housing solutions.
“During the 2017 to 2018 school year, more than 330 high school students were identified as homeless in the Waco Independent School District, a number that continues to rise. More than half of those students were also identified as unaccompanied, meaning they are not in the care of a parent or guardian,” Atkinson said.
So far, The Cove has been providing care and supplies like counseling, homework help, tutors, computers, mentoring, family-style dinners, healthy snacks, laundry, showers, toiletries, medical and hair-cutting services to these teenagers, according to their website.
“We’re so grateful for the ongoing support of Magnolia Foundation,” Atkinson said. “This incredibly generous gift will go such a long way in meeting the needs of our young people experiencing homelessness and will allow us to develop housing solutions.”
According to March Rivera, Americorps VISTA liaison for The Cove, The Cove wants to open host homes for the teenagers they serve. Because they are under 18, they cannot sign a lease. Needing the guidance and support of adults nearby, the staff is leaning toward a family-style option, Rivera said.
“We have a mentorship program that is starting up called the Cove Coach program,” Rivera said. “One thing that is critical for these students — since they are in high school and about to graduate — is that they complete high school and get their diploma, because that really helps them in the future in terms of that they have a better chance of not becoming chronically homeless.”
Teenagers will be paired with an adult who can answer questions about finances or social life and who will be able to help guide them through life like a parental figure would, according to Rivera. Sometimes the teenagers that The Cove serves don’t have an able parental figure or they come from backgrounds of abuse, so the coach tries to provide that resource while also empowering the teenage to make their own informed choices as they prepare for adulthood, Rivera said.
Though The Cove acknowledges the generosity of the Magnolia Foundation gift, they are calling upon the Greater Waco area to also support The Cove as they want to be able to fully care for the teenagers of the community.
To give or volunteer, go to The Cove’s website.