A Santa Maria family that has been struggling with homelessness received a special gift on Thursday.
After seeing a story featuring 15-year-old Jeremy on KSBY last week, a Montecito woman stepped up to provide him, his three younger brothers and mom with a back-to-school shopping spree at Target.
Local school districts confirm there are thousands of students like Jeremy who are considered homeless on the Central Coast.
Jeremy and his family have battled homelessness for years, moving around many times and living in shelters.
"I’m just really lucky to be here," Jeremy said.
"Juggling bills, taking care of my kids – it’s harder now than it ever was," said Crystal, Jeremy’s mom. "And I have four boys so its times-four."
Thanks to the help of an angel donor, all four brothers – Jeremy, Ashton, David, and Dylan – got their own carts to fill up with back-to-school items.
"I couldn’t have done it without anybody, without her. I was stressing until this lady came along," Crystal said. "She drove all the way down here just to help my kids."
The Montecito woman who made this possible didn’t want to be named but said after seeing Jeremy’s original story and how he’s battled homelessness, she felt his attitude about everything was remarkable and she had to do something to help.
"I was watching the news, and I saw this 15-year-old with the best smile and in spite of what he went through, being homeless, his attitude, it struck me," the woman said. "He wasn’t complaining about his circumstance and what he didn’t have, but his attitude was remarkable."
So it’s out with the old, tattered, holey shoes and in with the new – shirts, jeans, pajamas, hats and school supplies.
"I’m glad they all got to come pick out some school clothes. They are really happy, you could tell. We don’t get much time like this together," Jeremy said.
Jeremy and his family couldn’t stop expressing their thanks to the Montecito woman. Jeremy said he would be paying it forward.
"From my perspective, it’s not really about me, it’s what I’m going to do for other people," Jeremy told KSBY News.
"Jeremy talked about his self-esteem and being bullied," said Edwin Weaver, Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley. "Part of that is making sure you fit in. You don’t have to have the best clothes, but you have to have nice clothes."
"I’m nervous to go back to school but I’m happy," Jeremy said. "I’m excited to be able to see my friends and teachers."
While this family feels blessed and grateful, non-profits say there are another 10,000 students in the area who are considered homeless and need help.
"We have a lot of students who need to get ready and don’t have the resources to do that," Weaver said.
The non-profit Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley is looking for at least 700 people to put up $100 each and sponsor homeless students so they, too, can get some new clothes.
"Do not give up, do not give up!" Crystal said. "We were on the streets, we were in the shelter, we are slowly working our way up. Don’t give up hope, ever."
Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley
A shopping event for homeless students will be held on Aug. 12 at the Santa Maria Old Navy. Schools in Santa Maria start Aug. 13.
Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley is also looking for volunteers for their after-school program once a week.