Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
The night of March 19, I couldn’t sleep. I had a story running the next day, a feature on homeless teens. I’d spent three months reporting the story and two years thinking about it.
I’d heard about the rising numbers of unaccompanied youth two years ago, as my oldest son was becoming a teenager. The story hit home. And I couldn’t stop thinking about those teenagers living on their own.
But things didn’t work out and I waited for two years to tell this story.
And then everything came together and the story would run the next day. But suddenly I was scared. I worried over every word. And I wondered: What if no one cares?
Turns out, I didn’t need to worry. The past week, I’ve been inundated with calls and emails, all from people wanting to help.
And that was just a drop in the bucket. Social workers dedicated to homeless students in Stafford and Spotsylvania have received more than 100 calls.
Thanks to you, readers, the teen in the story will have a new life. When I wrote the story, he’d dropped out of school, walked an hour to work and was in danger of losing the room he was renting.
But now: he has a place to stay. And he’s heading back to high school.
Most importantly, he no longer feels alone. Readers have sent cards and letters of encouragement.
Readers also offered help to the social workers serving homeless students and their families. Offices, clubs, churches have banded together to collect crock pots, toiletries, underwear.
You will change lives. Just yesterday, social worker Michelle Patton dropped off a crockpot to a family in a motel. The mom thanked her profusely, saying that for the first time in quite a while, she could cook a meal for her family.
I am so lucky to be part of this. And I wanted to thank you for that. I work with words and I can’t describe how much this means to me. It’s been an incredible experience to watch this charity and it wouldn’t have happened if you all weren’t willing to open your hearts.