Horizons for Homeless Children: Raising Awareness Over Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s also the perfect time to raise money and awareness for an organization trying to ensure that no child wakes up in the morning without one.
Horizons for Homeless Children held their 11th annual Women’s Breakfast to raise money and awareness for children living in homeless families Thursday, October 15th. The event, which was hosted Mary Richardson Co-Anchor of WCVB Channel 5’s Chronicle, also featured guest speaker Michele Norris, Host of NPR’s All Things Considered.
According to their website, Horizons for Homeless Children is an organization that provides normalcy to the lives of children whose families are experiencing homelessness. The website reads, “We help children learn how to play, to share, to read, and to enjoy exploring their worlds. We help parents learn how to be nurturing and involved in the growth and development of their children, and help them learn and grow through job training, GED and college courses.”
In order to raise money and awareness for their various programs, Horizons for Homeless Children throws several fundraising events throughout the year. The Women’s Breakfast is their largest event, hosting over 1,000 people each year.
“The annual Women’s Breakfast is one of our biggest fundraisers here at Horizons for Homeless Children,” said Colette O’Neil, Director of Communications for Horizons for Homeless Children. “It is in addition one of the greatest awareness builders. Each year there [are] approximately 1300-1400 people who attend the breakfast.”
This year’s event, which was hosted by Mary Richardson, Co-Anchor of WCVB Channel 5’s Chronicle, featured a healthy breakfast of fruit and yogurt to accompany speeches from people who work with, the organization, as well as those who have been through their programs.
“It is so exciting to be here because Horizons for Homeless Children is an organization that is so close to my heart, and just so many people’s hearts in Boston,” said Richardson. “There [are] 1200 people here today and somehow you feel they’re all alike in a wonderful way, so I enjoy this breakfast so much.”
 “It’s enormously important because they’re dealing with our future,” Richardson continued. “These children are our future, and when you get to know some of kids, the little ones, you realize the incredible potential that is there.”
One of this year’s speakers reflected on her experience at the breakfast and on working for Horizons for Homeless Children.
“It always feels good to be at these events,” said Jeanette Lynch, a preschool teacher for Horizons for Homeless Children who spoke at the event. “I am lucky that I get a job that I love what I do, and I love the organization that I do it for.”
Added Lynch, “Our kids, they want the same things that all those other children want. They want someone to look at what they have drawn and tell them how great they did. They want someone to chase them on the play ground.”
This year’s event also featured guest speaker Michele Norris, Host of NPR’s All Things Considered. Past speakers have included, among others, world renowned poet, Dr. Maya Angelou, and feminist activist Gloria Steinem.
“It’s an honor, it’s really wonderful. It’s a program that is so impressive, and an issue that is so close to my heart, that it was wonderful to come here to honor the people who keep this program alive, [who] have nurtured it,” Norris said. “Also, to spend time speaking to the women who dig deep to make sure that this program has survived, and continues to thrive even in a difficult economy.”
For more information about Horizons for Homeless Children, please visit their website at www.horizonsforhomelesschildren.org or call 617.445.1480 for program information.

PROGRAMS OFFERED BY HORIZONS
Horizons for Homeless Children, one of Boston’s leading organizations in the fight against child and family homelessness, offers programs across Massachusetts to help families experiencing homelessness get back on their feet, and ensure their children live a normal life.
“We have been around for 20 years, and we are headquartered here in Roxbury, but we have programming, direct service programming that extends across the State of Massachusetts,” said Colette O’Neill, Director of Communications for Horizons for Homeless Children.
  Horizons for Homeless Children offers several programs that allow children growing up in homeless families to learn and play in a normal environment, one of which is a preschool program that prepares children in homeless families to be integrated into a traditional classroom.
“Our first program in called our Community Children’s Center Program,” said O’Neill. “Essentially that is a program that is based here in Boston, we have what we call Community Children’s Centers where we serve 175 young homeless children each day. By young homeless children we mean anyone under the age of six, and essentially what it is, is a preschool.”
O’Neill continued “[There are] three preschools in the city of Boston where parents who are residents of family shelters are able to drop there kids off, and they spend between 8 A.M. and 6 P.M. here. We have a qualified network of preschool teachers; early education specialists, and social workers who are all invested in helping young children who are homeless become school ready by the time they leave here.”
    While Horizons for Homeless Children provides a place for these children to learn and grow, they also work with parents to get their lives back on track.
    “While the kids are in the classrooms we are working with their parents on ways to get back to self-sufficiency,” said O’Neill. “So were working with them to try and secure permanent housing, access resources to enable them to get back to school or back into the work force.”
    Along with their Community Children Center Program, Horizons for Homeless Children also works within shelters to establish a play space, which gives children a place to play and learn.
    “The second program is our Play Space Program. That’s actually a program that is across the state,” said O’Neill. “It’s where we started actually as a agency, it was one of the first programs that kind of took effect when we were first founded.”
    O’Neil continued, “Essentially what that is, is a program whereby we work with shelters and we install what we call play spaces in family shelters. They are designated spaces for young homeless children to learn and grow, become equipped with art supplies, age appropriate books, you know climbers. All of the tools that help young children learn and grow while they are residents of [a] shelter.” 

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