Michael Thomas, 16, a San Benito County resident and high school junior has been in 4-H for the past eight years. In June he set out to complete his Emerald Star project. Emmaus' House, a home for women and children avoiding domestic violence, was the lucky recipient ofhis hard work.
The Emerald Star is a rank awarded to a 4-H member, of intermediate and senior levels, for planning and implementing a leadership activity. According to the 4-H Development website, Emerald Star is separate from any other star rank, it's been designed to encourage members to develop projects that serve their communities.
Thomas started his project in June, deciding to collect essential items for the year-round operations of Emmaus House.
"I picked Emmaus House because it's a great organization. They help a lot of people in the community," said Thomas who also serves as the president of the Sunnyslope 4-H club.
Throughout his donation drive, which ended Sunday Oct. 22 at 4-H Achievement Night, Thomas contacted 10 4-H clubs in San Benito County to help obtain donations from Emmaus House "continuous needs list" resulting in two truckloads of supplies. Additionally, Thomas sold a goat at the Santa Cruz County Fair and used the proceeds to augment the donations received.
"I want to thank everyone who supported me," said Thomas. "I want to thank the entire 4-H community for making it all possible."
"We at Emmaus House cannot thank Michael enough for choosing us as his emerald Star project!," said Emmaus House executive director Patrice Kuerschner. "The past 18 months have been a belt tightening, financial struggle for the shelter. For Michael to take on this 'continuous needs' list and turn it into a multi-club giving project is so generous."
She added, "Emmaus House has approximately 150 clients through its doors annually. The need for cleaning supplies, toiletries, bathing products, basic needs etc. is great. Michael took the extra initiative to give his own hard earned monies to make sure each of our children have additional and fun treats for lunchtime. He purchased new shoes for our boys, and listened when I said we go through two to four vacuums each year. He made sure we had new vacuums right when we really needed a replacement."
Kuerschner said residents were beyond happy for Thomas' generosity and couldn't thank him enough.
"Our current residents were able to go through the baskets and baskets of goodies delivered and pick-out what their family's immediate needs are. Since the two truckload delivery Monday evening our families just keep saying over and over again 'we are beyond happy' and keep saying thank you," she said. "It is so heart-warming to have a young member of our community recognize a need and give back. Michael is a very special angel to Emmaus House. Thank you Michael."
According to the San Benito County Victim Witness Assistance Program, over 350 women are physically abused each year in San Benito County. Law enforcement receives more calls about domestic violence than for any other need. Emmaus House, the only such shelter in San Benito County provides a safe harbor for women and their children seeking immediate relief from domestic violence. They provide a secure and child-friendly environment, trained and nurturing staff support and assist women with immediate concerns for safety, shelter, food and clothing. Kushner estimates that by the end of 2017, Emmaus House will have sheltered over 1,600 women and children. Since 2006, they have sheltered 1586 clients , 865 of those have been children.
For more information, call 831-630-5899 or visit www.emmaushouse.net. The crisis hotline is 877-778-7978.