Nolan Middle School club collects donations for homeless children in Manatee County

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Matchbox cars, crayons, coloring books, hats, gloves and coats are among the items nestled in the back of a classroom at Nolan Middle School.

The items are part of a project taken on by the 33 students in the school's chapter of HOSA, a club for future health professionals, to benefit homeless students in Manatee County. The HOSA club, run by advisers Michelle Boculac and Pam Rahn, teamed up with the Bradenton Woman's Club and the HOSA chapter at Manatee High School to collect items in the "Hope for Homeless" fundraiser.

"I don't think people realize the issue is that serious," said 12-year-old Phoebe Bond-Abraham, who came up with the idea for the project. Phoebe said they want to help children their own age have things she and her classmates might take for granted.

Once Bond-Abraham proposed the idea, Rahn decided to expand the scope of the project to hit all areas of the county. The students at Nolan can take care of the donations that come from the eastern part of the coun

ty, the Manatee High School club can coordinate donations from the western part of the county, and the Bradenton Woman's Club is located in the downtown area. Rahn's mother, Saundra, is president of the Bradenton Woman's Club and said the club often works with charities that benefit underprivileged children.

The students at Nolan made posters and announcements at the school to help gather donations, which will then be given to Manatee Children's Services, Hope Family Services and One Stop Clothes Center to distribute to those in need. The collection is set to end Friday, but may be extended slightly.

For Ava Small, a 12-year-old student in HOSA, it's important to help out those who don't have what they need.

"We have everything and we're really lucky," said Ava, who is also working on a project to send recorders to students in Haiti in memory of a family friend who loved music and had gone on a mission trip to Haiti.

Rahn said she's proud of the students for getting involved. The projects, like Hope for Homeless and Harmonix for Haiti may not seem related to the club, which is for future health professionals, but actually fits.

"The social, emotional, mental and physical is a part of health for everyone," she said.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.