Rebecca Buckles works with young people who sleep in the woods, live in tents or couch surfs in other people’s homes.
She helps them find a place to live, learn to manage money and be good parents as part of her job as director of Fairbanks Native Association’s Street Outreach and Advocacy Program.
She finds room for fun, though.
On a recent Friday, Buckles and other FNA staff held a Candyland-themed prom for the young people.
“Years ago, I noticed that kids who got GEDs or finished school online didn’t have a prom,” said Buckles, SOAP’s director and therapist. “We talked about that with the kids, and they asked for a prom. We’ve been doing one ever since.”
This year, the gym at FNA’s Ralph Perdue Center was decorated in confectionary colors of pink, blue, green and orange. Tables had lollipop centerpieces. A DJ, husband of one of the staff, played dance tunes.
But before any dancing began, the young people tucked into a meal of pizza, fruit, chips, dips and drinks.
“We provide a hot meal with our activities,” said Caroline Ramos, FNA director of Youth and Young Adult Services. “The kids always appreciate it.”
SOAP provides a variety of services to 10- to 25-year-olds who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Buckles and staff give SOAP kids food boxes as well as clothes. Some of the youths are parents themselves. Buckles makes sure their little ones have good food and clothing, too. She also works as a therapist with the young people, helping them to solve problems.
FNA took on the program after Fairbanks Counseling and Adoption closed in June 2017.
“It was important for us to help those kids who live on the streets of Fairbanks,” FNA Executive Director Steve Ginnis said. “We want to give them connections to caring adults and protect them. We provide resources or direct the youth to resources. It’s part of FNA’s mission and values.”
At the prom, young women couldn’t help but daintily lift a satin skirt to walk across the floor in fancy shoes. Young men accepted their peppermint boutonnieres for their lapels. Soon the floor was filled with dancers.
“The goal is to create special memories,” Buckles said. “It’s all about the kids.”
October is Socktober Month at FNA SOAP. Buckles said they give out 3,000 pairs of socks annually and that new socks are always appreciated by SOAP clients. For more information, call 452-6251, Ext. 6419. KWOLF 98.1 is also accepting socks on behalf of FNA SOAP, 529 Fifth Ave.
Diana Campbell is communication director at Fairbanks Native Association.