By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Dec. 13, 2018) With the final “Bus Stop Snack Shack” scheduled next week, the program’s organizers are focusing on continuing the monthly events next year while also tackling issues of hygiene.
Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services in Berlin began the Bus Stop Snack Shacks in June as a way to “provide snacks, community resources and free books to children as they get off the bus,” according to a press release.
The first Snack Shack was at Dr. William Henry Park in Berlin and the program has moved each month to different towns throughout Worcester County, including Snow Hill and Pocomoke.
Worcester Youth billing and insurance specialist Debbie Smullen started the program after reading about a similar endeavor in neighboring Wicomico County.
“It really seemed important to me, because a lot of kids get off the bus by themselves,” she said. “There’s nobody home, so it provides a good after-school snack for them, as well as someone they can talk to. And it allows us to meet people in their own neighborhood, where they may feel more comfortable talking about their needs or the things that are important to them.”
Smullen said the Snack Shacks have been well received. This month, because of an influx of donations and an apparent need in the area, the program will briefly change gears.
“What we have decided to do for December is to deliver 100 bags of toiletries and cleaning supplies to the Head Start programs in Stockton and Newark,” Smullen said.
She said 60 bags were given to the Stockton Head Start this week and 40 more would be brought to the Newark Head Start on Wednesday, Dec. 19.
Worcester Youth is collaborating with the Judy Center at Snow Hill Elementary School, a program established by Worcester County Public Schools to enhance early childhood education services “by creating a network of education, health and social services.”
“What we have found, and the information that we have received from the Judy Center, is that people go without basic toiletry needs and cleaning supplies long before they would actually reach out and request food donations,” Smullen said. “That’s a need that we’re trying to fill for those families.
“We have had really a lot of community support for this,” she added, including donations from the Berlin Lioness Club, Church Mouse Thrift Shop, Buckingham Presbyterian Church, Harrison Group and Salisbury University sports teams.
“We also received a large donation from the American Legion Post #166 in Ocean City, and we had a private donation from a local Avon representative who donated quite a few toiletries,” Smullen said. “We’re also working with the Stephen Decatur Middle Kindness Club, so people reach out from a lot of different areas in the community.”
Collections will continue through Monday, Dec. 17, with drop-off at the downtown Berlin Worcester Youth office on 124 North Main Street, Suite C.
Smullen said the nonprofit has a large supply of toiletries, but is still short on cleaning supplies. She said “just the basics” are needed, such as laundry detergent, trash bags, toilet paper and paper towels.
“Those basic things that we all have to have, they’re not covered if you’re part of that [food stamps] program, so you still have to find a way to supplement to purchase those things,” Smullen said.
“This time of year it seems like it brings out the basic needs of people that I know I, personally, take for granted. So, those are some of the things that we’re trying to fulfill for families,” she continued. “There are a lot of organizations, including ours, that do provide holiday gifts for children, but the basic needs of the families sometimes aren’t met and so that’s a gap we’re trying to fill this year.”
As for the Bus Stop Snack Shack, Smullen said the program would return to Snow Hill in January and to Pocomoke in February. Dates have yet to be set.
For more information, or to donate to the Bus Stop Snack Shacks, contact Smullen at 410-641-4598 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We are looking for monthly sponsors, as well as groups that would like to get involved to help promote the things that they do for the community and to help reach out to the children,” Smullen said.