A program pairing Lamar County school campuses with local businesses in support of youth living in poverty rolled out Tuesday, and local firms are clamoring to get on board.

“This is not about money,” Lamar County Chamber of President Paul Allen said Wednesday at a CONNECT kick-off meeting.

“This is about your time, the time you spend on a campus getting to know the campus dynamics, getting to know the administrators and getting to see how that campus works.”

Each school campus in the county is paired with at least one local business, Allen said following a packed noon meeting at Love Civic Center, where campus representatives met with paired business representatives.

“Just since noon, I have paired eight more businesses with campuses,” Allen said later Wednesday. “The more pairings we have, the better.”

The brainchild of the youth committee of the Lamar County Homelessness Coalition, committee members United Way executive director Jenny Wilson and North Lamar Assistant Superintendent Angela Chadwick shared about how CONNECT came to be, and the need of youth living in poverty.

“The youth committee looks at the need of students and families who are homeless, or are at-risk of being homeless,” Wilson said. “One out of every four kids in Lamar County is living in poverty.

“In this program, we are really trying to focus on building relationships to help those families who are living basically one step away from being homeless,” she said.

Wilson shared a Paris-Lamar County Health District brochure with listings of available resources as well as the names of United Way’s 25 partner agencies that provided an array of services for those living in poverty.

“I have found in my work with school administrators many of them do not know of the resources available, and teachers are often digging into their own pockets to help their students,” Wilson said.

Chadwick, chair of the youth homeless committee and president of the United Way, shared about the committee she chairs and how CONNECT came to be.

“The first meeting of the year we brainstorm ideas about how a group of volunteers can help youth facing poverty and homelessness,” Chadwick said.

“So we took a board and started brainstorming ideas. From a full board of ideas, we pared it down to one, and that is how can we find a way to get the community to help us because we can’t do this by ourselves.”

Those interested in joining CONNECT should call the Lamar Chamber of Commerce at 903-784-2501.

Mary Madewell is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6976 or at mary.madewell@theparisnews.com.

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