Bringing a Merry Christmas to Transitional Students

There are 150 students identified as homeless or living in transition enrolled in Paducah Public Schools (PPS) – these kids will not have a permanent home this Christmas. They live in hotels/motels, with other families, in domestic violence/homeless shelters or are unsheltered – on the street or in their car.

PPS has set up a Tornado Christmas Tree to help these kids where each ornament represents a student impacted by homelessness.

Little things have a big impact

You can help Paducah City schools serve these homeless students by donating some of their most needed items. Did you know the most requested item by the homeless is socks!

Items that are critical include gift cards, ($10 and $20), from Kroger, CashSaver, Speed Wash Laundry, fast food and Dollar stores.

Items that help them with personal hygiene and to get to school such as alarm clock, small lotions, Chapstick, hand sanitizers, dental floss/toothbrushes, travel size toothpaste, combs and hairbrushes.

They need school supplies such as flash drives, binders, colored pencils, markers and middle/high school backpacks. They also need things such as can openers and food items that don’t need a lot of preparation or cooking such as canned chicken, soups, ramen, Spaghetti-Os, etc.

They can always use laundry items such as detergent, fabric softener, bleach, laundry bags, & lint rollers.

“I am in personal contact with these families and students,” said Heather Anderson, district coordinator for the program. “They tell us their needs and we do our very best to meet it. Cash donations are used for things like ACT prep workshops, bus passes to help parents get around to take care of general everyday business/get to work, grocery/fuel cards and other items not covered by the McKinney Vento grant that PPS receives.”

Please stop by the Central Office, 800 Caldwell Street, and place your donations under the “Tornado Tree” or drop them off at the front desk.

A year-round need

Donations are needed not only at Christmas but all year long, especially in August at the beginning of the school year. That’s when there is a rush to find clothing and specialty school supplies such as flash drives, binders. The need for hygiene items, shoes, and clothing is continuous. The preference is new items so that these students don’t stand out but rather blend in with their classmates - however, gently used coats, clothing, shoes and backpacks are always welcome.  

 “We have such an incredibly giving community,” Anderson added. “Because of the support of the staff at Paducah Schools and the community at large, we have largely been able to meet the needs of our students.”

Transitional Students

The Tornado Tree was started in the 80s with the McKinney Vento Act which provides services for students and families who are identified as Transitional. (‘Homeless’ is no longer used but it resonates with the general public).  For example, many students need scrubs for their nursing class and the grant covers that need.

Paducah City schools are one of 14 schools in Kentucky with this competitive grant. It is a three year grant, and they are set to re-apply this year. This grant does not cover housing needs, food and hygiene needs, etc. and PSS depends on donations to cover that for the students.

To be identified as Transitional a student is living with another family, (their family is unable to afford housing on their own), living in hotels/motels, transitional/domestic violence shelters or unsheltered. This law is in place to make certain that Transitional students are afforded the same educational opportunities as housing stable students.  

For more information, email Anderson at or call her at 270.556.8017.