In 2002 a group of women in the Aledo community had a vision for serving financially under served children in the Aledo school district. They started AdvoCats.
The mission of AdvoCats is improving the lives of children throughout Aledo.
"Our goal is to meet or assist with an identified need, whether big or small, for the children in our community," said Advocats president Courtney Edwards.
"The biggest benefit is that AdvoCats covers a multitude of needs in an efficient and confidential manner."
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AdvoCats' current project is the Angel Tree. Last year's Angel Project served 438 children from 185 families with donations of over $36,000 in gifts.
"We see an increase of about 5-7 percent in requests each year, so we know there will be more of a need this year," Edwards said. "We are currently seeking shoppers to volunteer to adopt Angels."
Angel Project (AP) is an AdvoCats program that organizes Christmas gifts for qualified Aledo ISD students and siblings who reside in the same home. Angel Project is a collaborative effort between AdvoCats, AISD, and the community. The school counselors identify students who may benefit from this project, AdvoCats collects wish lists and assigns community volunteer shoppers to purchase gifts, and AdvoCats collects and distributes the gifts.
The children and families served by AdvoCats are referred by the school counselors at the Aledo ISD schools. The school counselors are often familiar with issues and needs going on with a particular child and will reach out when a need arises.
The AdvoCats' three main outreach efforts are Children's Fund, Angel Project, and the Clothes Closet. Help is distributed differently based on the service program from which it is coming.
Children’s Fund (CF) is AdvoCats' main outreach service. School principals and counselors at each of the nine campuses identify children and their families in need of assistance and refer them to the Children’s Fund Committee for assistance. CF works directly with the AISD to provide assistance for students in need.
The CF evaluates each student’s needs on an individual basis and all information is confidential. The CF assists in the following areas of need:
▪ Medical or dental assistance
▪ Living expenses
▪ School supplies and school-related expenses
▪ Professional counseling
▪ Other crisis interventions
The Clothes Closet is a clothing resource run by the Aledo Children’s AdvoCats. We offer this service to families recommended by the AISD counselors. When families are referred to the Clothes Closet, each family member living in the household is allowed to shop for clothes. Qualified families are able to shop and receive clothing free of charge.
The Clothes Closet is also open to the public as a resale shop at 209 E. Oak St. It is open Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
"It is a bargain shopper’s paradise and proceeds support AdvoCats vital programs to help local children and families," Edwards said. "We also accept clothing, shoes, and accessories donations during these hours."
Funding from AdvoCats comes from business partner sponsors, as well as two yearly fundraisers, the fall Hope and Help Luncheon and a spring Run, Walk or Crawl 5k race, which will be a color run with the 12th annual edition set for April 29 at Bearcat Stadium.
"We also have a very generous community who make frequent donations," Edwards said.
"One of the projects we are most proud of was the Hancock House of Hope," Edwards said. "The project was to benefit the Hancock family, particularly Dylan Hancock, who had just had a heart transplant.
"The Hancock home received needed improvements to make it suitable for a heart transplant recipient to reside in. This project was definitely a collaboration of several Aledo organizations, of which AdvoCats was proud to be included. It was a great example of what could be accomplished when the community comes together for the needs of their own."
AdvoCats specializes in serving children and families in the Aledo ISD. However, assistance for needs outside the community are considered on a case-by-case basis.
And while AdvoCats helps the community, Edwards said the community is also encouraged to help AdvoCats. This includes students in the Aledo ISD.
"We rely on all of the community, including our students, to ensure the mission of AdvoCats is being met," she said. "We have had many individual students and student groups volunteer their time and talents to promote and raise funds for AdvoCats. We love when children display a heart for serving.
"There are many ways the community can get involved. We encourage the women in our community to join AdvoCats as a member and volunteer their time."
For more information on the AdvoCats, visit their website at www.aledoadvocats.com.