In a time that schools are facing reduced budgets, the families those schools serve are also facing hardships. It seems like at the beginning of the school year there is some focus on how much teachers are spending on supplies for their classroom and their students. Reports show that the average teacher is spending $500 or more on classroom supplies, but I am sure this number does not include everything else teachers are spending to support students, from buying endless fundraising items to support teams and clubs to providing foods and snacks to hungry students to providing for basic needs, not to mention the extra time they put in beyond the regular school day. Throughout the year, and especially during the holidays, the teachers, along with great students, step up to provide time, money, or goods for people in need, including students in their own school and community. So much of it goes pretty unnoticed, because of course no one is doing it for recognition, but rather to help our students and community. We know that if a student’s basic needs are not met, they will have a harder time learning at school. But it doesn’t hurt to make the public aware of how much the teachers and schools are doing to support a spirit of giving during the holidays and beyond. These are just a few examples of all the good schools are doing.
1) Davenport Community Food Pantry and school food pantries
Teachers are well aware that too many of our students are going home without food, so one teacher had the idea to begin a project to try to provide more food to families in our schools and our community. What evolved was the Davenport Community Food Pantry (DCFP), which is one of the largest food pantries in the region, and is a partnership of the Davenport Education Association, the Davenport Community School District and the Riverbend Foodbank. Teachers and students volunteer to serve in the pantry on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and since it began just this September, thousands of people in our community have been helped, most of whom are families in our schools. If you’d like to volunteer at the pantry, you can sign up here: http://bit.do/DCFP. You can even sign up with your older children to make it a family volunteering experience.
Beyond this large pantry, many schools also have a smaller pantry for students in their school. West High even raised money over the last year for “The Nest” to install a washer and dryer so students can bring in laundry to wash. There will also be a clothing closet and a stock of hygiene products for students in need.
2) Angel Trees and Care Packages
Most schools participate in some kind of Angel Tree during the holidays. Some schools, especially elementary schools, have a mitten tree to help provide cold weather gear for students in the school who might otherwise go without. Other schools have a tree with a holiday wish lists for students who might not get Christmas gifts that year because of a range of difficult circumstances, with both needs and wants on the list. Many teachers and even students in their classes or teams “adopt” a student. There are lots of students in need of basic necessities; I personally picked up a student with needs of deodorant and body wash, something many of us probably just take for granted. The social worker for West said one year a student wanted a tooth for Christmas and they were able to find a dentist who was able to help that student.
Knowing that some students only get meals at school breakfast and lunch, schools also try to provide holiday care packages that includes food for students and their families to get through the long holiday breaks. Central High puts together holiday dinner boxes with complete meals and money for meat to families in their schools, and turns it into a contest for classes to put together as many complete boxes as they can. Even elementary students want to do things to help the community; for example, Truman Elementary put together 400 hygiene kits to hand out to families at the DCFP.
3) Giving to the Community
The Davenport high schools participate in Brittany’s Gifts, named for Brittany Manders, who cared deeply for children and those with special needs. Students raise money throughout the year for gifts for the residents of the Handicapped Development Center and for the child care centers at the YMCA. They also take donations for the residents, and teachers and classes or teams adopt a resident to buy a shirt and pants, as well as some wish list items, for the resident. The students and their advisors wrap the gifts and take them to the residents and children, and always say that it was such a great experience to see the joy on the recipients’ faces.
4) Giving beyond the holidays
Of course schools do a lot throughout the year to help the community, like participate in the Student Hunger Drive in the fall, and many have some sort of charity week during the year to raise money for a particular cause. On a regular basis, a crisis might arise for a family, like a fire, a life-threatening illness, or a sudden change in income or housing that puts the family in major hardship. An email is often sent to the staff requesting needs, like clothing or home items. I’ve seen requests from winter clothing to bicycles to beds sent to the staff, and someone always comes through to provide for these students and families.
I can only speak to what my district is doing, but I am certain that the schools in your child’s district are doing similar projects. If you would like to help the schools help their students, call the school to find out how you can help.