Rio Rancho Observer
Help pours in for homeless teens
By Stephen Montoya Assistant Editor Dec 24, 2017
A faint smile of joy can be seen on Independence High School social worker and counselor Carol White’s face as she looks at a room full of donated items she will distribute to students in need this Christmas.
“This is an overwhelming honor to have this many resources in the period of four days for so many students in need,” White said.
A few months ago, the Observer spoke to White about the number of kids at IHS who qualified as homeless. White said in November that she had close to 40 families who would fall under the homeless classification, making them eligible for federal aid.
One student White said was in the deepest need was 18-year-old Gabe La Rose. When the Observer reached out to La Rose, he had been spending his nights on the streets, mainly in a drainage tunnel behind a major chain store.
Since the Observer broke that story, La Rose has been taken in by a family and has received many donations from readers touched by his story.
Yet, many of La Rose’s classmates were still in dire need of basic resources.
Enter local resident Robert Miller, who read La Rose’s story and began communicating with White to see what he could do to help.
“We were having a Bible study for my church and that evening we were talking about charity and how much money does a person really need,” Miller said. “It got us talking about Gabe because we realized it was getting cold outside.”
Miller contacted White to see how La Rose was doing and decided to raise funds to help any way he could.
“Some of the people from my church gave and here at my company, USA Pain Clinics, we choose a charity every month…and if a staff member donates for that month, then they get to wear jeans for that month,” Miller said. “What we did this time around was if they donated a $25 gift card, then they got to wear jeans the rest of the year.”
Miller said he also reached out to people he knew in the business community to help gather resources.
“It was just amazing how many people really stepped up,” Miller said.
In total, Miller was able to donate $2,300 in gift cards to help the families in need at IHS.
According to White, Miller was just one of many residents who helped make this holiday season a success for many of the students and their families.
Raquel Harrison, at the behest of her boss, is donating what many people value as much as money: her time.
Harrison, who works for the Rio Rancho Road Runners organization, said she is going to go through the process with Rio Rancho Public Schools to help White maintain resources for the IHS students after the holidays.
“After reading the article about Gabe in the Observer, my boss indicated that he would like to do anything he could to help,” Harrison said. “So my boss actually volunteered my time…He wouldn’t let me volunteer my time but instead he offered to pay me to help Carol with whatever she might need.”
Harrison said her company began collaborating with White in November to help with the Thanksgiving food boxes at IHS for the many families in need.
“We asked Carol what we could do to help for Christmas and she gave us the names of two large families,” Harrison said. “So we took that on and helped fulfill their holiday needs.”
Harrison said she has been inspired by the outpouring of support from like-minded collaborators who have filled the void where there was once nothing.
Miller added that his dedication to helping students struggling with homelessness is not just a short-lived holiday-season goal.
“I don’t want to be a person that helps at a soup kitchen once on Christmas and that’s it. These students’ needs extend year round, so I plan on continuing my support,” Miller said.
To help a student at Independence High, contact Carol White at firstname.lastname@example.org.