After hearing about the homeless student population at Arvada High School, the the owners of George’s Cafe, George and Deanna Karavasilis, decided to dedicate the funds from their annual bake sale …
After hearing about the homeless student population at Arvada High School, the the owners of George’s Cafe, George and Deanna Karavasilis, decided to dedicate the funds from their annual bake sale to the school’s resource center.
“This community steps up when they know there’s a need,” said Mary Harlow, customer at George’s Cafe and Arvada resident. “These are the kids that really need our support.”
The Karavasilises have been holding an annual bake sale to benefit various community nonprofits since they opened their Arvada restaurant in 2004.
“It floors me that one school has such a large homeless population,” said Deanna Karavasilis. “And I realize that the homeless population is a gamut — it’s kids living on someones sofa to actually living in a car. But still, that’s living in crisis. That’s living on the edge.”
This school year, Arvada High School has about 50 students who are considered homeless by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The act defines homelessness s “a lack of fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.”
But Lisa Vega-Fields, family engagement liaison for Arvada High, think the number of students experiencing homelessness in much higher because some people might not know they qualify.
“Some people think they need to be living on the streets or in a hotel,” Vega-Fields said, sharing that a student came and see her who recently moved in with grandmother after her mother lost her job. They weren’t aware that the family fell under the definition of homelessness and have resources available to them through the school.
After a week-long bake sale, the Karavasilises donated $2,000 to the school’s resource center. Of that, $1,500 came from the bake sale and another $500 was added from George Karavasilis’ pocket.
Vega-Fields launched the school’s resource center in the fall of 2016 to give homeless students and those living in “the gap” with food and clothing.
“Sometimes families aren’t homeless, but living paycheck to paycheck and just strapped at the end of the month,” Vega-Fields said. “I call them our gap families. And they are struggling too, especially if something comes up like the car breaks down.”
Though 66 percent of the schools population qualifies for free or reduced lunch, the school does not receive Title 1 funds, which provides grants to schools to supplement existing programs and provide extra teachers, intervention programs, supplemental materials, technology and professional development.
Arvada falls short of the 75 percent requirement for middle and high schools.
“But we think we’re more than that,” Vega-Fields said of the schools free and reduced lunch percentage. “Now my understanding is that families aren’t filling the paperwork out because of DACA. It’s been brought to my attention that there are families hesitant.”
Over the past year, the Arvada High Resource Center has grown both in awareness and in resources. In addition to now offering bikes, the center has more clothing, school supplies, food to take home and for students to snack on at school, and backpacks. The center also hosted a prom closet with dresses, shoes and jewelry last year.
The donation from George’s Cafe will go toward purchasing more toiletries, food and specific clothing items for students. It will also be used to provide bus passes to students without transportation.
But Deanna Karavasilis emphasized that gathering the donation was a community effort.
“If it weren’t for our great customers, we wouldn’t have been able to do it,” Deanna Karavasilis said. “It’s not just George and I, it’s our neighbors and customers.”
The Karavasilises have decided that as long as there is a need, the students at Arvada High School and the resource center there are going to be the focus of their fundraising efforts.
“We’re right in the community and we didn’t realize that the need was so great,” Deanna Karavasilis said. “Had I known that there was such a need here at the high school with homeless students ,we would have been more involved with it prior.”