With need growing and resources dwindling, Shawnee Mission residents step up to boost Cares Fund

Kimberly Hinkle, Shawnee Mission Education Foundation Executive Director, said the community has come through in a big way to replenish the Cares Fund.

Shawnee Mission residents have come through in recent days to help shore up a fund critical to helping students and their families in need.

The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation’s Cares Fund was established to help provide financial assistance to district families facing financial stresses: unpaid rent after unexpected medical expenses, for example, or utility bills after a lost job.

Over the fall, the foundation saw more requests than ever before come in. With disbursements of more than $30,000 over the past 12 months, the fund balance had dipped into negative territory.

So, earlier this month, the foundation put out a call through an all-district email blast seeking donations. They came rolling in.

“We are still processing the dollars that have come in during the past month, but I know it is more than $10,000,” said Executive Director Kimberly Hinkle. “We have so much need in our district, but we also have the most generous community members who believe in helping our SMSD kids.”

Hinkle noted that people have found ways to help beyond money. In addition to the financial contributions that have rolled in, the foundation has received offers to collect needed clothing and food.

“I was contacted by one of our homeless families who has received help in the past. They are collecting socks to give to kids in need,” Hinkle said. “A family reached out to say that they couldn’t afford to contribute, but they would like to help in some way. They are going to donate canned goods to help our families.”

It’s an example of how committed the community is to helping its own.

“Over the past week, we have seen some pretty incredible examples of generosity to the Cares Fund—once we shared with the community that the program was in peril, folks have really stepped up,” she said.

How you can donate

If you’d like to make a donation to the Cares Fund, visit the Education Foundation’s website use the online donation tool. You can also send a check with “Cares Fund” in the memo line to the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation, 8200 W. 71st St., Overland Park, KS 66204.

Recent Cares Fund requests

Hinkle provided the following examples of recent Cares Fund requests:

• The mother of a 6th and 8th grader had brain surgery and she was unable to work for a while around the surgery and fell behind in rent. In addition, one of the kids was hit by a car at this time. With mounting medical bills, the family faced eviction. We paid part of the rent to make sure the family could stay in their home.

• The mother of a kindergartner and 7th grader lost her job. She got a new job, but the couple of missed checks caused her to fall behind in her rent. She is also raising a family members 2 children. Her older son (19) is working and contributing to the rent as well. They were scheduled for eviction on Dec. 17th, she was able to scrape together most of her back rent and we supplemented it to keep them from being evicted a week before Christmas.

• One of our 3rd graders has severe medical issues that keeps mom from working days so she can care for him. She works nights but got behind on her utility bills. She worked with the electric company to get on a payment plan but needed help paying the past due balance. We paid part of the past-due balance so that she could get on the payment plan and be sustainable going forward.

• Mother of 4 (pre-K, 3rd, 5th, 6th) is struggling to pay rent because her ex-husband has defied 2 court orders to pay child support. We paid a partial month of rent to keep her from being evicted.

• A 10th grader who lives with his sister and brother-in-law has no insurance and no access to dental services. He had a major dental problem and infections. We paid for him to have emergency dental work done at the UMKC School of Dentistry…preventing further infections.