MYAKKA -- Toward the middle of December work in the fields for migrant families in Manatee County tapers off, just in time for the holidays.
And the Manatee County School District has started to cash in on the lull, hosting migrant family information fairs, in an effort to connect with the families and let them know the services available in the community.
On Tuesday, the school district and the East Coast Migrant Head Start facility on State Road 64 in Myakka welcomed migrant families and children with free food, clothing, shoes and information about getting involved in the community. It's the second year the district has held an event specifically for the migrant students and their families. The event Tuesday in Myakka was the second this year, after the district held a similar event on Saturday in Palmetto.
"This is a way for us to say 'Oh hi,'" said Kate Bloomquist, the district's director of migrant programs. "We're able to provide parents more information about services in the community." Migrant families often end up in Manatee County after the start of the school arriving from other parts of the country -- following where the work is -- and can come with very few resources and not a lot of money. The school district looks to connect the families with agencies that are able to provide help and information.
Two rooms at Head Start were set up for families to select clothes, shoes, toys and other donations. The district collects the donations throughout the year, with many coming in October and November, and is able to give items out as families need them and during the information fairs, which are close to the holiday season.
The families sign in, giving the district an opportunity to update their information, mark any changes and ask whether there are other families in the area they may not be reaching.
The donations center was the most popular part of the event. Bloomquist expected to have some extra donations this year so she can reach out to families who didn't attend. Extra donations will go to The Salvation Army or another agency.
MCR Health Services was on hand to encourage families to get health check-ups.
"We're just trying to get them to be seen," said Cynthia Camarena, a community outreach coordinator. "The migrant families, they can be hesitant for medical services."
A combination of no health insurance and already strained finances often means migrant families won't even bother to look at the option, assuming they are too expensive, she said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.