Mandy Heacock realizes that it is hard to imagine someone being excited to go to work every day — but she is.
“I get to help people every day,” Heacock said. “It’s as simple as them knowing I’m here (for them).”
In May, Heacock helped a young girl find a prom dress and delivered food to households in need.
“It’s a purpose, it’s a calling. If you like to serve and help people, this is the perfect position to be in.”
Heacock is one of nine Family Resource Youth Service Center (FRYSC) coordinators in the area. The coordinators serve Franklin County Schools and Frankfort Independent Schools. Heacock serves at Bondurant Middle School (BMS) and Western Hills High School (WHHS).
“Our overall purpose is to remove non-academic barriers — anything outside of the classroom, such as food, clothes, shelter, mental health services …” she said, “anything that doesn’t happen in the classroom that affects what happens in the classroom.”
The coordinators develop partnerships within the community to help them provide food, clothing, school supplies, some medical care, and other needs, to students in need. Each school in the system has a designated FRYSC coordinator.
When school starts back up, Heacock will be going into her 10th year as a coordinator with FRYSC.
Heacock has a bachelors degree in social work. Her first five years in the field were spent in mental health helping those preschool aged through college aged. Then she received her teaching degree and started 10 years ago with FRYSC, first at Peaks Mill Elementary School, then Elkhorn Elementary before making her way to BMS and WHHS.
“At the elementary schools, they are called family resource centers,” she said. “They focus more on the family dynamic.”
At the middle and high schools, the coordinators get to work more directly with the students.
At BMS and WHHS, Heacock has set up a room where students can collect any food, clothing, hygiene or school supplies that they may need.
At WHHS, Heacock calls her room the Green Hanger, and over spring break of this last year, she decided to give it a boutique makeover. She laid rugs down, hung art on the walls and moved the counter to the back of the room. She organized the clothes by sizes and hung them on the racks. After the students pick out what they want, which there is no limit, Heacock bags it up in brown bags with handles and hands it over with a smile.
“Who doesn’t love to go shopping,” she said. “You want to have fun and not have to dig through stuff. Not everyone likes to ask for help. Everything is available without having to find it.”
Heacock said the relaxed atmosphere allows for kids to be able to open up to her.
“This is a great way for kids to come in and just chat,” she said. “Some people think we just do simple things like give food, but we’re building a support system for kids and their families.
“When I talk to a family going through crisis, I use ‘we.’ They’re not alone. We’re going to do it together. A lot of what we do, we can’t talk about for confidentiality reasons. People don’t get to see all the work that goes into it.”
Busy all year
Heacock and the other eight coordinators don’t just work during the school year. They stay busy all summer long. This summer, they are providing virtual summer camps, where the kids can login for a healthy snack workshop or learn hip-hop dance moves. One of the coordinators is also providing a live drumming class to help students de-stress and manage their anxiety.
Coordinators also pitch in with the district-wide Summer Feeding Program and collecting food for the Backpack Snack Program.
Another fundraiser Heacock works on over the summer is one she created — Turning Bare Feet into Learning Feet. She said the idea for the shoe drive came to her three years ago when a child arrived to a Back to School Bash without wearing shoes.
“We knew why he didn’t have shoes on,” she said. “I was talking to my principal at the time and noticed people collect shoes for mission trips. Kids in Frankfort need shoes.
“So, we collected brand new shoes and gave them to whoever showed up. No paperwork was needed. The first year, we had 500 pairs of shoes. We set it up like a shoe store.”
Heacock remembers being excited as a child getting to go to the store and pick out new shoes for the school year. She wanted to bring that excitement to children in the district.
“What’s better than a new pair of shoes to start your school year with?”
Throughout the school year, Heacock works to collect new shoes through donations and she hosts a yard sale in the spring to raise money to purchase new shoes. This year, the distribution day will take place 9 a.m.-noon July 24 in the BMS parking lot.
The coordinators also work with former Mayor Bill May and his wife Jenny on their Coats for Kids initiative, which provides new winter coats to area children.
“We’re able to give kids brand new winter jackets, which is amazing,” she said.
And, the kids are grateful too for all the work the coordinators do. One student shared the following text message with Heacock:
“Thank u so much. U have helped me more than anyone else and actually understood.”
The message further gives her reason to continue what she’s doing.
“These kids give me more than I will ever give them.”