Joint effort gives hundreds of Lee County homeless students toys, meals

Reporter: Breana Ross
Published: Updated:
Eric Decker, who helps kids with 3H Exchange. (Credit: WINK News)
Eric Decker, who helps kids with 3H Exchange. (Credit: WINK News)

For some homeless people in Lee County, all they want this Christmas season is a roof over their heads and a warm meal in their bellies. For six years, a group has been helping to make sure they get not only what they need, but toys, too.

To Eric Decker, bins before him are more than just equipment full of toys and canned goods. It is his tradition that he started in middle school.

“I found out that there were some homeless students in the school I was going to and I really wanted to reach out and help those in need,” Decker said.

So Decker founded 3H Exchange, also known as High Schools Helping the Homeless. For the sixth year in a row, he has partnered with the Cape Coral Police Dept.

Master Corporal Phil Mullen, of the CCPD, said they do not always get to see fun stuff. “We don’t always get to see the light, giving side of society,” he said. “A lot of times, we see the worst, so sometimes it’s the best part of our entire year.”

In just days, the presents will go to some of the hundreds of kids in the School District of Lee County who may otherwise have had nothing to put under their Christmas tree. The district said it has around 850 registered homeless students. The 3H Exchange Drive helps about 200 of them. Sunday is the last day to donate – a bin is set up at the Cape Coral Police Department and the Chester Street Resource Center in downtown Cape Coral.

Sheena Torres-Nunez, Lee County District homeless liaison, told WINK News that Decker provides toys for families who may not have met other deadlines. But they are able to give toys and gifts to those students because of this program.

Decker does not get to see the faces of those kids who receive the donations as everything is “completely anonymous” from his end. But Torres-Nunez and a team of school-based social workers do see the shining light on the faces of the young recipients. It is all made possible by Decker and a community of secret Santas.

“It is very empowering to be able to give children Christmas,” Torres-Nunez said, “who may not have had it.”

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