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'It Takes a Village' to help those in need

An organization in Wayne County set out to help students and their families in need before the pandemic even began.

HONESDALE, Pa. — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and counselors from the Wayne Highlands School District put together 250 wellness bags to hand out to students at the middle school. 

Area businesses, including Woodloch Resort, Wayne Memorial Hospital, and Sprout Dental, donated the items in the bag.

"Everybody was so generous and gave us soaps, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, pamphlets on how to handle stress, how to live a healthy life, and then resources in the community for mental health and physical health," said Christina Siepiella, Wayne Highlands district crisis counselor. 

The wellness bags are just one part of how these educators are helping students in the district. Several of the counselors started a nonprofit organization in October of 2019 called "It Takes a Village." 

The organization helps families within the school district struggling with basic needs like new shoes or paying bills. Throw in a pandemic, and many more families were reaching out for help. 

"Families that normally would be doing very well had either lost jobs, so it really just compiled and made it easier for us to help families because we already had it takes a village in place," said Amy Gries, a counselor in the Damascus Area School.

It Takes a Village has already been able to assist at least 50 families so far. Organizers say they couldn't have done it without the community's support.

"I'm not surprised because I know where we live, and I know our neighbors and our community and how strong it is, but it just makes you feel so good to know that there are so many people that care and want to help," Siepiella said.

"A lot of our families have said, 'As soon as I have the opportunity to pay it forward when things look better for our household, we would love to do that, and how can we do that?'" Gries added.

If you'd like to support It Takes a Village, you can find information here.