A local nonprofit has expanded its reach into the Gulfton Area to help meet students’ needs for necessities like clothing and shoes — and to provide ways for families without transportation to access food.

Kay Wasden, founder of Wraparound Resources, recently completed a second delivery to Benavidez Elementary. She brought pantry staples, school supplies, shoes and socks, clothing and hygiene products. On a different day, she brought another ample delivery of hygiene items and food.

School staffers told Wasden they direct families with transportation to various local pantries to pick up food — but that many others in need don’t have the means to get there. A stocked pantry at the school is now an important resource for these families.

Keiry Chirinos, the Wraparound Specialist for Benavidez Elementary, said: “It has been a blessing the resources that Ms. Wasden has provided to our campus. I was able to help 40 families with her resources.”

In photo: Kay Wasden, center, with Keiry Chirinos, left, and Esmelin Velasquez of Benavides Elementary.

In addition to Benavidez, Wraparound Resources serves Cunningham Elementary, Liberty High School and Middle College High School at Gulfton, all located within the Gulfton Area District, Wasden said.

The nonprofit serves nearby schools like Braeburn and Sutton elementary schools and many others in the Houston Independent School District.

A Meyerland resident, Wasden said the idea for her nonprofit started when she and her book club friends wanted to donate books that had been used by their children in high school.

At the time, staff members at two area schools said they would accept the donations.

Then the Winter Storm Uri hit in 2021, Wasden said, and she unexpectedly received a text from one of the school’s wraparound specialists asking for food and grocery store gift cards.

“Our families are in trouble,” the text said.

“I was taken aback, but I said, ‘Yes,’ ” Wasden said. After the freeze, she said, she and her friend decided to work with the two specialists at Westbury High and Fondren Middle to find out what the students really needed.

“We worked with them the remainder of the school year, collecting and donating clothing, food, books and other needed items,” she said. “The following year, we expanded to work with elementary schools in the Westbury feeder, and began working also with Madison High School, Worthing High School and Attucks Middle. “

By July 2022, Wraparound Resources received its nonprofit status. It now serves 83 area schools and keeps adding more to the list as it provides food, clothing and the other basics.

Photo of a student’s old shoe, left, next to their new shoe provided by Wraparound Resources.

Since August 22, the organization has collected more than $63,000 in money and in-kind donations. This spring alone its family food packs have helped feed 640 to 900 people, according to Wasden.

She said the nonprofit targets schools where 90 percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch or, in other words, where 90 percent or more of the students come from economically disadvantaged homes.

“We go into the schools and form a relationship with the wraparound specialist at the school and find out what they need for their students and what they have trouble getting,” Wasden said.

The Wraparound Services Department in the Houston Independent School District connects students and their families with community resources that address the non-academic challenges that students face — and which ultimately affect their ability to learn.

“Lots of organizations donate back-to-school supplies or Christmas toys. Some schools might have organizations that donate toothpaste or period supplies, but not deodorant,” Wasden said.  “Some schools have a good source for food but not for clothing, and some schools have the opposite. This is why we work with the specialists to determine the particular needs for each school we serve.”

Wraparound Resources operates with just a handful of main volunteers. Wasden, a pianist and accompanist, serves as president.

In addition to monetary and gift card donations that Wasden uses to purchase supplies, the nonprofit welcomes donations of frequently requested items such as deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap, menstrual supplies, children’s underwear sizes 4T-5T and 6, and shampoo and conditioner for all hair types.

In the past, supporters have collected donations at work, in their neighborhoods, or at parties.

“And we are always looking for volunteers who have a fair amount of time and their own transportation to be part of our team,” Wasden said.

Wraparound Resources
[email protected]

— by Dorothy Puch Lillig