Sunday, August 17, 2008

(Sample news release)

St. Louis Public Schools

December 30, 2008

Media Contact: Deborah Sistrunk
Phone: 314-345-2254

Volunteers offer warm welcome
to new immigrants

St. Louis – In December, St. Louis Public Schools welcomed nearly 40 immigrant families who had limited or no English language skills. It soon became apparent that the parents and children needed much more than assistance with English. These families had recently left countries with much warmer climates and were new to St. Louis’ winter temperatures. They had an immediate need for coats, warm clothing, shoes, food, and other items.

Staff members at the district’s ESOL Welcome Center jumped into action, working with volunteer services. Help, as it turned out, was just a few doors away. The Journey, a nearby church in South St. Louis, quickly recruited volunteers for a donation drive. Within a few days, helpers had rounded up:

  • Six boxes of new coats, warm clothes, blankets, and towels
  • 30 pounds of food for each family
  • An assortment of can openers, knives, and other utensils

Schools are closed during the winter break. For students, that means no school meals for two weeks. SLPS staff members wanted assurances that the children would have enough to eat.

Nahed Chapman, executive director of the district’s ESOL program, was elated that The Journey answered the call to action so quickly. Chapman and her staff were organizing an event for immigrant families on December 18.

“The Journey went above and beyond,” said Chapman. “With only three days to prepare, they were ready with 10 volunteers on the day of the event. They helped to organize and distribute clothes.”

The volunteers didn’t stop there. They knew that families would be taking the bus to the Welcome Center, which is located at 3125 S. Kingshighway. Chapman said that volunteers filled their cars with boxes of food and clothing, and then followed the buses. That made it easier to get packages from the bus stop to the families’ homes.

“I pass the church every morning on my way to work,” said Chapman. “Every time I pass their doors, I remember them all. They remind all of us the true meaning of the holidays.”

Chapman also acknowledged the hard work of Donnie Harris, who heads ESOL guidance and counseling, and Maria Childress, who oversees ESOL social workers.


Editor’s note: The Journey is located at 2833 S. Kingshighway. ESOL is an acronym for English for Speakers of Other Languages.


Deborah Caldwell Sistrunk
Public Information Coordinator
St. Louis Public Schools
801 N. 11th St.
St. Louis, MO 63101
314-393-0572 cell
314-345-2661 fax
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