By Jalyn Bolyard, Online Editor
Senior social work student Tara Loy was awarded a plaque for her work with the Wheeling SleepOut on Nov. 21 during her field practicum preparation class.
Part of her grade was volunteering 30 hours with an organization of her choice, and Loy chose Youth Services System, Inc. (YSS), which operates out of Wheeling and hosts the Wheeling SleepOut.
Loy secured a sponsorship from a new sponsor, solicited hundreds of dollars’ worth of prizes from a variety of local businesses, and helped at the event. Due to her hard work, Sondra Jackson, Special Events/Fundraising Coordinator of YSS, wanted to surprise her at the event, but Loy left before she could be given the award. Jackson then presented the award to Loy during classtime.
“Sondra took me under her wing and taught me everything I needed to know about the Wheeling SleepOut because she was so passionate about it,” Loy said.
“I was very surprised, and emotional,” Loy said, “It was very heartfelt to see how much it meant to [Jackson] to be able to help others.”
The event was held on Nov. 4 to raise awareness and money for the homeless youth problems in the Ohio Valley. People form teams to build a cardboard box and the event has construction rules for this “BoxedIn Design” contest in which they can spend a night in the box.
The funds raised goes to support work with older youth (17-21 years old), many of whom are transitioning out of foster care with few community ties or resources to help them.
“It was an eye-opening experience. I did not realize how many homeless youth were in our community and needed our help,” Loy said.
Approximately 25 percent of homeless youth are LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) and their sexual orientation is related to why they are without of homes.
Organizations throughout Ohio Valley helped and participated with the event, including church groups of First Presbyterian Church and Martins Ferry, school groups of Central Catholic High School, Shadyside High School National Honor Society, Boy Scout troops, the Wheeling Odd Fellows, and youth from Tuel Transitional Living Center among others.
“We are pleased with the public support of our work through the Wheeling SleepOut,” said Michael Toothman, Office of Public Information of YSS, “and the contributions of many people who enabled us to reach our fundraising goal this year. Tara Loy was one of those people and we wanted to celebrate her contribution.”
“Our community is very fortunate to have this program available for our youth. I really enjoyed the learning experience and meeting all the people I did,” Loy said, “I was glad I could be a big help to the event. It was amazing to see the positive response that I got from the people in our community. I was very thankful for their generosity in providing the event with donations.”
An upcoming event for YSS is the Winter Freeze Shelter, where temporary shelter is offered to those in need to get out of the elements and to eat a warm meal. Needs for this event include blankets, sheets, pillows, and canned foods.
“I would recommend [YSS] if anyone is ever wanting to participate in some volunteering time,” Loy said, “YSS has many different events that can always use helping hands.”
If anyone is interested in learning more about YSS and volunteering opportunities, check out their website.
Photo provided by Michael Toothman.
Pictured left to right is Darryl E. Clausell, YSS Board Member; Tara Loy; Sondra Jackson, YSS Special Events/Fundraising Coordinator.