‘The sky is the limit; we can do anything,’ says Pink Bow Foundation founder about serving homeless teens.
Owner of the trendy Livi & Tate boutique in downtown Clermont, Marcella Imbesi remembers having an epiphany when she volunteered in a food pantry at her daughter’s high school.
She noticed hygiene supplies were scarce.
“They had very little shampoo, deodorant, tooth brushes, toothpaste,” says Marcella, who also became concerned about homeless teenage girls who missed school days because they did not have access to sanitary pads or tampons while on their menstrual cycle.
Marcella was determined to do something about it. In 2014, she started the Pink Bow Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization in Clermont, and rallied community support to gather hygiene supplies to fill the shelves.
Since then, hygiene kits have been packed with full-size shampoo, conditioner, soaps, Q-tips, combs, brushes, lotions, and more. More than 2,000 kits have been given to teens in need from social workers and guidance counselors affiliated with Families in Transition, the liaison between homeless children and Lake County Schools.
“There are just over 1,700 classified, known homeless students in Lake County. Imagine how many more are out there that are not in the school system to be counted for,” says Aimee Stanley, owner of Optima One Realty, who also is active with Pink Bow Foundation.
“One of the latest reports show 62.5 percent of the unaccompanied youths in Florida were in grades 9-12, so these kids are living on streets, couch-surfing, and living at friends’ homes for however long they can.”
The pair learned some homeless teens sleep on bathroom floors of public restrooms.
“This is the segment of the homeless population that is forgotten; nobody really talks about the teenager,” Marcella says.
“Homelessness is homelessness,” adds Aimee, “but most of the focus out there is on the veteran, the single moms, and the families with small children. People assume just because someone is 18, they can handle being out on their own.”
Marcella and Aimee strive to raise awareness of teen homelessness on a national level.
“We want to be a solution by empowering teens with resources so that they can get off the streets and into society,” Aimee says. “We also want to reach out to companies and say, ‘Just give one homeless teenager a chance to learn a skill; give them something so they have a start.”
To help, visit thepinkbowfoundation.org