She’s 17 and on a mission. And she needs the help of individuals and businesses to get it done.
Ellen Kromer, a Westchase resident who attends Steinbrenner High in Lutz, wants to reach out to people across the Bay area to help her collect items such as gently used clothing and basic toiletries for Jesus for Juveniles.
The nonprofit organization supports incarcerated and newly released juvenile offenders to help them start over, she said.
Her mom, Janet Kromer, began volunteering for JFJ as a mentor at the Pasco Girls Academy in January.
The organization also supports the Hillsborough Girls Academy and the Riverside Academy for boys, as well as the Gulf and Lake Academy in Pinellas, which serves disabled youth.
It’s a challenge, because the kids go back to the same environment with the same temptations. Sometimes their parents are doing the same things the child is trying to avoid, Janet Kromer said.
They get so frustrated, they end up running away and end up in the system again. And often, they prefer a detention center, because it's safer than home, she said.
Ellen Kromer can’t volunteer at a facility until she turns 18, but after hearing about the issues these youth face, she wanted to get involved in a big way, right away.
The senior has her sights set on Florida State University, where she hopes to pursue a degree in criminal justice before heading to Boston University for law school.
This project fits with her passion for criminal law, she said.
Helping youth in the criminal justice system break the cycle is important, she said.
The more help people receive when they’re given a chance to start over, the less likely they are to commit a crime in the future, Ellen Kromer said.
Ellen Kromer is looking for businesses in Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties to serve as donation sites for her project.
Walton’s Ice Cream and Coffee in Land O’ Lakes is on board, and will have a decorated collection box in the store soon, so Land O' Lakes residents can drop off items.
In Westchase, Century 21 BayWest, 11041 Countryway Blvd., and Spa Euphoria, located right next store, also will host collection boxes.
Some of the items collected will be sold in the facilities’ canteens, which rely on donations to stock the shelves, Ellen Kromer said.
“The youth are allowed to visit the canteen only if they have demonstrated good behavior and have enough reward points to shop. This reward system has proven to be effective and the youth look forward to the privilege of shopping at the canteen,” she said.
Are you a business owner in Pasco, Hillsborough or Pinellas who would like to serve as a collection site? Get more details here.
Want to make a donation? Check out the list of needed items.