New program helps with Gainesville students’ emergency needs

This post was written by springfieldauthor on November 7th, 2016


Posted: Friday, October 21, 2016 12:00 am

by Norene Prososki [email protected]

For some kids in Ozark County, the pain of poverty is overwhelming.

What if a student doesn’t have a coat for winter? What if they need transportation to a doctor’s appointment? What if they need hygiene products or underwear and socks? What if they get head lice or don’t have a way to do laundry?

Those are problems that can stand in the way of a student’s success at school, and to address those needs, teachers, school administrators and parents have started a Gainesville chapter of the Springfield-based foundation Care to Learn.

“Our school and community are going to be working together to fundraise and help those students,” said Gainesville superintendent Joe Donley. “All the money raised will be spent right here on our kids in the Gainesville School District. “This is an opportunity for our community to make a tremendous difference in the lives of our students.”

Missouri businessman Doug Pitt founded Care to Learn in 2008 to immediately fund students’ emergency needs in the areas of health, hunger and hygiene. In just eight years, Care to Learn has fulfilled over 600,000 needs in the 32 Care to Learn chapters throughout Missouri. From items as small as toothbrushes and toothpaste to clothing and shoes, coats and backpacks filled with nutritional food, eyeglasses and hearing aids or transportation and wheelchairs, Care to Learn meets the needs of students so they can be successful in school.

Gainesville kindergarten teacher Kris Ledbetter was named the liaison for the Care to Learn Gainesville chapter and serves on the allocations committee. Once the program is in place, when teachers and other staff members see student needs relating to hunger, health and hygiene, they’ll submit it to the allocations committee for review.   Ledbetter will then write a voucher, and funds will be made immediately available to meet the need.

Care to Learn works closely with school district personnel to address the needs of students. Donations allow Care to Learn to provide immediate funding so that the problem is usually solved before the end of the school day. “Right now, we have to work at starting to get in some revenue, because there’s going to be lots going out,” Ledbetter said. “We’ll be trying to spread the word to the community, churches and individuals. One of the things I’d like to stress to potential donors is that, in addition to the money going directly to help our local kids, we’re also going to do our best to spend the money locally as much as we can.”

Ledbetter, who worked as a resource coordinator for Family Services before beginning her teaching career, acknowledged that “there are a few resources out there like the Lions Club, Ministerial Alliance and some others, but the Care to Learn Gainesville chapter will help fill the gaps that the other organizations can’t.”

“The Gainesville Schools have energetic leadership and a caring community. We were impressed to see nearly 30 community and staff members attend our initial meeting,” said Sara Lampe, deputy director for Care to Learn. “We look forward to working with the Gainesville School District to address the health, hunger and hygiene needs of their students.”

Century Bank of the Ozarks kicked off the Care to Learn fundraising efforts by donating the chapter registration fee of $1 per student. There are 630 students in the district. The chapter’s initial goal is $5,000 to meet general needs by the end of this year, but the needs are great, said committee member Holly Strain, who helped organize the chapter. “There will be fundraisers and events to attend and support, and the local chapter will be working directly with some of our local businesses, but there is also the opportunity for donors to go ahead and give. We know donors want to see the money stay right here in Ozark County and go directly to our students for emergent needs as soon as possible,” said Strain. “Five thousand dollars is a very attainable goal if just a few donors would be willing to step up with larger amounts, perhaps by the end of the year for tax purposes, to meet our goal. If you are reading this and feel led to get involved, please contact us directly to ask any questions you might have about Care to Learn!”

“As teachers, these kids are our passion; we want to do whatever we can to help them be successful in school and life,” Ledbetter said. “If a kid is worried about their food or where they’re going to lay their head at night, until those needs are met, learning their ABCs and 123s isn’t a priority. Basic needs have to be met before a student can be expected to be academically successful.”

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