Becoming the Village: Local Organizations Supporting Students
Keeping our children safe from the novel coronavirus while keeping them in school is a concern across the country. In order to protect our students, local school districts have made the call to begin the year at home and online. Taking part in NTI (Non-Traditional Instruction), asks that kids have more than a No. 2 pencil and a wirebound notebook in order to participate. What happens to those children and families who are struggling to find access to many essential resources during this transition?
In a learning environment, full stomachs are a resource necessary for children to realize their full potential. This is why Blessings in a Backpack was founded in 2005. Its mission is to provide food on the weekends to kids who qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program.
When the pandemic first forced schools to rethink their in-person classes due to social distancing practices, BiB continued their calling. “The kids who rely on those free breakfast and lunch meals during the school week oftentimes go home for the weekend without anything to eat,” says Managing Director Kim Holsclaw.
Reaching out to its community of volunteers, BiB continued to deliver meals to those families who depended on their weekend blessings. Kim says she was blown away by the generosity of the volunteers who distributed backpacks to designated schools on Fridays because as Kim says, “How can we expect children to be successful later in life if they don’t have their most basic needs of food met?”
After nourishing a child with healthy food, the next best step is to nourish their brain with healthy knowledge. For some families, procuring computer tablets and the accessible internet needed for NTI studies is an impossible task. This is when local organizations like Metro United Way become a huge support. “We play a strong role in the community to ensure that everyone thrives,” says Adria Johnson, chief impact officer.
Metro United Way is a nonprofit organization that works to align resources to advance “health, financial independence, and education spectrums,” Adria says. During the pandemic, this group has gone into “crisis response mode” in order to meet the ever-changing needs of the community it serves. When schools initially shifted to NTI, Adria says that Metro United Way quickly looked for “the best way to shore up organizations that have pivoted in this new normal and are supporting the community.” Concurrently, they helped with basic needs like buying hand sanitizer and purchasing thermometers for organizations that needed them.
Another well-loved local organization offering solutions of support is Kosair Charities. Founded in the early 1920s, Kosair has evolved into a charity that enhances the health and well being of children by delivering “financial support for healthcare, research, education, social services, and child advocacy,” says Lindsay Wehr, senior vice president of Strategy & Outreach.
One way Kosair has been supporting students and children through the pandemic is by backing nonprofits across Kentucky that are helping kids on the front lines. “This year we supported 80-plus organizations for over $12 million, and that’s definitely our biggest support, because there’s a lot of need for those organizations right now,” Lindsay says.
Kosair Kids Financial Assistance Program also directly helps families who might have an unexpected medical diagnosis. “Any family can apply, and the application process is located on our website,” Lindsay says.
Making sure our children have the resources needed to thrive is a vital component in maintaining a healthy community. Like Adria says, “This is a tough time for everyone, and these are not easy issues to solve. We all need to be exercising grace because this is the time for the village.”