We’ve had a number of inquiries from readers in response to our stories on growing poverty in the Shawnee Mission School District this week. (You can find the first piece, on the statistics showing the trend, here. The second piece, on how agencies and employees are working to address it, is here.
A number of Shawnee Mission patrons have asked what they can do to help, so we asked the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation and the Shawnee Mission Area Council PTA for suggestions about where people can contribute donations and volunteer efforts. Here’s what they had to say:
Kimberly Hinkle, Shawnee Mission Education Foundation
In 2013, the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation started the Shawnee Mission Cares Fund, which provides financial assistance to our families in crisis. When our teachers, nurses, social workers or principals identify a student with a need, they pass that on to us and we can respond immediately to the need. Unlike social services organizations that might require some financial data or other screening, we can take the recommendation of the school team and get the problem solved usually in less than 24 hours.
Here’s a few examples of Cares Fund requests we’ve had recently:
- 1. Emergency housing for family who was evicted from their home. They planned to sleep in their car until an apartment became available. The Foundation paid for a week in a hotel for this family.
- 2. Student whose mother was diagnosed with cancer and unable to work. We provided 5 weeks’ worth of grocery store gift cards to the family.
- 3. We have paid for water bills, electric bills and gas bills…we know our kids can’t study if they don’t have the lights or heat on or if they can’t take a shower before school.
- 4. We’ve done winter coats and other clothing and we’ve bought furniture for a family whose home was destroyed in a fire.
We don’t have too many limits on the types of support we can give our families in need, but our families can only be referred to the Cares Fund twice per year. The Cares Fund is meant to be short-term emergency assistance. We trust our school teams to identify and refer these need to us.
Each year, we see our requests through the Cares Fund increase substantially. We have never turned down a request due to lack of funding but our fear is that the needs will outgrow our existing funds. We have an incredibly generous community and some of them do not know about the work being done by the Foundation and the District to help our Shawnee Mission families. The support of our community is what keeps our Cares Fund alive.
We truly believe that ALL means ALL and we are in the unique position to support needs at each of our schools. There are families in need at every single school in our district and we are able to help those families at a moment’s notice. This year alone, we’ve given more than $25,000 in assistance to our kids in crisis.
Denise Sultz, Shawnee Mission Area Council PTA
If someone wants to help, [the SMAC Clothing Exchange] is a place where they can do much good with donations of used clothing and of money. If they choose to sponsor a clothing drive, especially for school-aged children, we would love to be the recipient. Another main component of our giving is new, clean packaged underwear for the children of the family. We can always accept a donation of newly purchased underwear. Money to purchase the underwear is always welcome — but having it purchased and delivered to us saves not only on our budget but also the time and energy of the volunteers. We do new socks as well.
The needs vary depending on the season. Right now, we have limited summer hours and families might be looking for shorts and lightweight items. Of course, as we move toward fall, we will need heavier clothing such as good used jeans, sweaters, sweatshirts, and hats and gloves. We actually have a small selection of fancy dresses that have been donated that are popular for homecoming and for prom. We also have a small section of items pertinent to those families which might include a baby. Our main request is that the items be clean and not torn or ripped. We work across the district with the nurses to get items for their respective schools and the nurses also help let families know of the opportunity that the clothing center offers to our families. The clothing center is staffed by volunteers from PTAs across the Shawnee Mission District under the direction of the council but other volunteers are always welcome.