Hugs St. Johns Fills a Void with Kindness

Hugs St. Johns Fills a Void with Kindness

Ten years ago, a group of moms wanted to help out at Website Elementary, a Title 1 school in St. Johns County. They volunteered at the school one or two times a week. They quickly took notice of how excited the kids were to see them, running to greet them with hugs when they went. They saw that children came to school in painfully small clothing and shoes, that they lacked school supplies and that they were hungry. These amazing women stepped up and helped.

Over the past 10 years, Founder Brette Reiman has established an all-volunteer, 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides emergency assistance to St. Johns County children in-need. Their programs address lack of clothing, food and books, and they now have a Girls Empowerment Program. Students are recommended for their programs by the St. Johns County school counselors and homeless liaisons.

I had the pleasure of speaking with co-directors Rachel Erickson and Angie Clark. They each have two elementary school children in St. Johns schools, and this mission is close to their hearts.

Rachel and Angie were kind enough to tell us about their programs.

Clothing Program: The Clothing Program provides a full week of clothes, shoes and needed toiletries to students in need.    

Food Program: Hugs St. Johns operates food pantries in 10 schools and at the Boys & Girls Club. They cover snacks and food for weekends when school meals are not available. They also sponsor No Hungry Holidays, during which 1,200 to 1,400 bags of food are distributed to cover a period when those in need frequently go hungry without the assistance of school-provided meals.

Book Program: Do you remember the excitement of holding a book that is all your own? Hugs St. Johns works with First Books to give books to early elementary students. Many of these children have no books of their own at home, and these books become the start of their personal libraries. The program also supplies volunteer readers in classrooms, giving children the joy of being read to.

Girls Empowerment Program: This exciting program provides lunch and lessons monthly to female students in middle school. There are guest speakers and teachers providing insight on a multitude of subjects aimed to give participants self-confidence and make them aware of opportunities.

My first question after hearing about these wonderful programs was How can people help? Volunteers are needed to:

  • Donate clothes, shoes and hygiene products
  • Put together bags of clothing
  • Help drive supplies to schools
  • Put together food drives
  • Purchase items from their Amazon WishList
  • Stock food items in the warehouse
  • Donate Books, especially books with strong diverse
    characters, to the Book Program
  • Volunteer with the Girls Empowerment Program

There are Hugs Club Chapters where high school students can get volunteer hours. They put together food and clothing bags, help at the warehouse and work food drives at farmers’ markets.  This volunteer work is done during school hours. If you would like your younger children to volunteer, we recommend that you assist them in setting up a food or clothing drive.

No Hungry Holidays are quickly approaching, and they can use your help. If you have a need, please contact your child’s guidance counselor. If you would like to help, please contact Hugs St. Johns at 904-580-HUGS (4847) or visit


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