Shawnee Mission Education Foundation asks for Cares Fund donations as it anticipates increase in requests amid coronavirus pandemic

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The impact of the novel coronavirus spans across both the healthcare industry and the economy, and people of northeast Johnson County are no exception.

The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation is thinking ahead about how to help Shawnee Mission School District families both during the pandemic, and once things have cooled down. Currently, SMEF is asking for donations to its Cares Fund, which provides immediate, temporary relief to students and their families during financial hardship.

“As our school teams make connections with their students, we expect an influx in Cares Fund requests,” SMEF Executive Director Kimberly Hinkle said. “We haven’t had too many so far, but that is to be expected as we were on spring break and came back to a whole new world of distance learning. We’re getting ready [for] when the time comes.”

The Cares Fund helps families who are enduring hardships such as difficulty paying utility bills, food insecurity and homelessness, SMEF Executive Director Kimberly Hinkle said

The fund currently helps families who are enduring hardships such as difficulty paying utility bills, food insecurity and homelessness, said SMSD Director of Family and Student Services John McKinney.

McKinney, Hinkle and the district’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Service Liaison David Aramovich provide financial resources to families — up to $500 per family per year — while also finding other community programs and resources for long-term plans.

Now, families may be losing paychecks and jobs, and will need access to necessities such as food and temporary housing as a result of the pandemic, Hinkle said. Although Gov. Laura Kelly’s orders to prevent evictions, foreclosures and utility shut-offs will provide temporary relief to families, those same families will have back rent and overdue utility bills to pay for once those orders are lifted, McKinney said.

“We’re in sort of an odd time right now, because we do have some protections in place at the state level that are helping our families,” McKinney said. “But we know that, sooner or later, those are going to go away and when they do, our families are going to need some help.”

With the economic impacts of coronavirus added in the mix, the donations SMEF is asking for are in anticipation of an influx of requests. McKinney said the community can help in one of two ways: Check in one another and encourage those who may be in need to reach out to the appropriate people, or make a donation if at all possible.

“Your contribution to the Cares Fund is the absolute best way that you can help our families that are struggling during this unprecedented time,” McKinney said. “We really work hard to meet the many and varied needs of our families, and the best way we can do that is financially.”

To request help from the Cares Fund, contact the social worker or nurse at your or your child’s school. To donate to the Cares Fund, visit the SMEF website here.