Herb Jaffe: Donations for homeless children hit close to home for Summerlin duo

Ken and Julie Himmler, who own and manage a financial planning firm in the nine-story office building in Downtown Summerlin, are on an unwavering mission with a twist.

Basically, it’s an appeal for all the assistance they can get, in the form of blankets, sleeping bags, coats, hats and anything else that could help homeless kids stay warm during winter. And they certainly wouldn’t refuse cash contributions, which would be used to purchase such items.

Here’s the twist: They, too, were once homeless kids. Or, as Julie put it, “We once lived on the streets. Ken and I know what it’s like. And being involved in this program is our way of giving back as best we can.”

Soliciting more than $10,000 worth of help for homeless kids last year is one thing, but seeking to double that in their second full year of involvement would be a far greater achievement, Julie added during an interview in her office at H&H Retirement Design and Management.

The focal point of their interest is Street Teens, a tax-deductible charity that provides more than just fresh clothing for homeless youngsters. Kids who may be runaways, and most often are the products of abusive homes, can also get a hot meal, some love and attention, and a hot shower in addition to a change of clothes.

“We’re asking anyone willing to donate clothing and other necessities that are in good condition to please drop them off at our office. We make regular deliveries of these items to the Street Teens center,” she said. The office address for H&H Retirement Design and Management is 1980 Festival Plaza Drive, Suite 460, in Downtown Summerlin.

Julie explained the Himmlers’ experiences as homeless kids.

“Ken was 16 when he left his home in Newark, Delaware, for Toronto,” she said. “That was 34 years ago. He wanted to become a hockey player. So he lived in a soft-top Jeep because he had very little money.”

Ken ultimately connected with a semi-pro hockey team that paid him $5 a game, she continued.

“For a while he lived on leftover hot dogs and popcorn from a concession stand, and he slept on the streets,” she said, adding, “I was homeless at the age of 5 when my mother became divorced. She and I lived in a station wagon for four weeks in Macon, Georgia, until my mom found a job.”

Lisa Preston, executive director of Street Teens, acknowledged that “the Himmlers have been very helpful to us.” The organization, at 5599 S. Pecos Road, was established in Las Vegas 15 years ago.

“We provide hot meals for street kids, clothing, showers, hygiene products, backpacks and even a bus pass to return home — that is, if there is such a place,” Preston said.

“We help an average of 15 kids a day, ages 12 to 21,” she added. “In some cases we even provide for babies — children of some of these teens. But unfortunately we cannot include sleeping accommodations for homeless kids due to some complicated state laws.”

So where do they sleep? “Some of them go to school and sleep in the homes of friends,” Preston said. “Others wend their way through the streets, sleeping in washes or parks or in abandoned buildings.

“Our goal is to have a 24-hour center with sleeping accommodations. There’s a building for sale behind our location that would be ideal. But it would cost more than $1 million to buy and renovate the facility.”

In the meantime, the Himmlers have taken on the task of assisting however possible.

“We want to do everything we can to help these kids, while efforts are under way to hopefully change laws that would allow Street Teens to provide proper sleeping accommodations,” Julie said

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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