Mr. Shelley Partlon's advocacy work on behalf of homeless children and families began more than 10 years ago. As a young teacher at Churchville Elementary School, he recognized the important role that a community can play in providing essential support to families in crisis and he challenged others to take action. With sensitivity and compassion, he has educated a district-wide school community about how individuals can directly assist the homeless to reach their goals of self-sufficiency and permanent housing.
Partlon's efforts over the past decade have benefited hundreds of homeless shelter clients of the Bucks County Housing group and American Red Cross in southeastern Pennsylvania. While organizational funding addresses basic social service needs, Partlon's efforts fill the void that exists due to budgetary constraints. Through ongoing, hands-on activities, Partlon and the volunteers he mobilizes provide homeless children and families with renewed self-esteem and critical community support and encouragement. He also provides recreation and comfort that they would ordinarily have to do without.
Under Partlon's direction, the Churchville Elementary School students, parents and staff sponsor a monthly activity to benefit the homeless community. In 1998, Churchville sixth graders visited the homeless children many times, reaching out in the spirit of friendship. They worked together on craft activities, played board games and basketball, raked leaves in the fall and planted flower and vegetable gardens in the spring. Through Partlon's example, they treated the shelter families with dignity, respect and kindness, all messages of empowerment. The school-wide community sponsored several drives for essential food and personal care items. A special staff fund created by Partlon was used to respond to specific client needs. The school Parent Teacher Organization and Girls Scouts made their own donations, reflecting the awareness campaign Partlon had mounted.
Creativity and innovation are always reflected in Partlon's work. The school district raised several thousand dollars for the homeless community through "Blue Jean Day," whereby staff members had to make a donation for the privilege of wearing blue jeans for the day. Outdoor basketball equipment was funded through the "Foul Shot Contest." The shelter children earned incentive points and prizes for their accomplishments in school and at home through Partlon's donations to the "Incentive Program."