A time to give
The Cape Coral Police Department has partnered with a student-led organization to collect food, toys and more for students and families in need this holiday season.
The 3H Exchange, or High schools Helping the Homeless, is a donation system founded in 2014 by Eric Decker, a senior at Ida S. Baker High School. Co-founded by Brooke Garrison, the system collects and supplies goods to students in need, while maintaining the recipients’ privacy and confidentiality.
“We’re just trying to benefit and help any high school student or their families who are having tough times,” he said. “It’s all anonymously put together. We don’t want to know who the students are.”
Teachers, guidance counselors, social workers and administrators identify and approach students who they think may benefit from the program. Information on the program is also available to students.
In the past six months or so, the 3H Exchange distributed school supplies and food to those in need. Decker explained that the National Honor Society held a school supply drive earlier in the year.
“They were able to donate some of the leftover stuff to us,” he said.
In October, the 3H Exchange held a canned food drive, collecting more than 400 items.
“I have 12 families that I know of that we’ve helped,” Decker said.
He and Garrison are working to get the program approved with the Lee County School District.
“I want to make it districtwide,” he said.
For the holiday season, the 3H Exchange has partnered with the CCPD to set up collection bins in the lobby of the Cape Coral Police Department and the Chester Street Resource Center for donations.
“We’re reaching out to more families with the holiday drive,” Decker said.
Donations of canned food, non-perishable foods and new, unwrapped children’s toys are requested.
“We’re accepting everything,” he said. “But we’re really pushing the toy drive. We’re really trying to give to the kids this holiday season.”
The drive kicked off on Black Friday, Dec. 5, and will run through Dec. 14. The 3H Exchange will begin collecting donations at Ida S. Baker on Monday.
“Our goal would be to fill up the storage unit donated to us by iStorage of Cape Coral,” Decker said.
Over the weekend, he made his first donation pick-up from the CCPD.
“We had 89 food items, including the canned foods, and then we had about 10 toys put in the box, as well,” Decker said. “We had blankets and a couple of sweaters put in the box, as well.”
For those who wish to make a monetary donation to the holiday drive, they can do so by writing a check to the “Cape Coral Community Foundation” – in the memo field write “3H Exchange.” Give the check to a police volunteer in the lobby, who will get it to the appropriate person at the CCPD.
“They will turn the money over into gift cards for us to shop with,” he said.
Decker advised against putting the check in the donation bin.
“We chose the police department for the holiday drive primarily on the fact that they’re already active in the community,” he said. “Everybody knows who the Cape Coral police are.”
For more information on the 3H Exchange, visit the organization’s Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/The3HExchange or email 3HExchange@gmail.com.
The Cape Coral Police Department is at 1100 Cultural Park Blvd.
The Chester Street Resource Center is at 4816 Chester St., downtown.