Final update: 4/22:
We've shut the fundraiser down. So many amazing people have donated so generously, but the need is just too large. With over $270,000 worth of grocery gift cards heading out to APS kids/families in need, we have made a noticeable impact for thousands of people in Arlington, but that's just scratching the surface.
We are continuing to encourage everyone to donate generously to local non-profits. We are still very concerned about the many families that are desperate right now, and are in a situation that is not likely to improve for many many months.
Thanks very much for your generous support.
One more push for donations! See the update info below. We're pushing for one last round of donations to order one last batch of grocery cards. Don't miss your chance to donate before we shut down our effort on 4/20. Remember, if you are in a position to donate, your donations will be seriously needed for many months to come. Be grateful that you have food in your pantry, and be generous for those that don't.
The world has changed a lot since we started this fundraiser a little over a week ago. With schools closed and many people losing their jobs, helping these kids has become both more important, and harder to do. We’re still trying to reach our goal, but know that we will not be able to connect with every kid in Arlington who is in need. We continue to work with principals, social workers, and counselors to get the grocery cards to kids. We are also looking at working with several other county and nonprofit groups in Arlington to reach more kids. This includes many kids that have no connection with other support services right now.
This pandemic is just beginning. The needs are growing. Across the world.
If you are inspired by our effort and want to donate, we promise to get every dollar to a family in need in our community. But instead of donating $100 to our effort, please think instead about donating $25 to us, and $75 to your local food bank. Can you do more? If so, consider $100/week to your food bank or whatever charity you feel can most effectively turn around your donation into real help for needy kids.
These important charity groups are also tax deductible and your employer may offer matching donations. They can buy in bulk for discounts, are well established and will be here for the long haul. And there are millions of people in this country who will be in acute need at least through the summer. Be generous.
If you are in Arlington, consider these worthy groups:
Update 3/13: Arlington Schools will be closed at least until April 14th because of the Corona Virus.
Original Fundraiser Story:
Arlington Public Schools has approximately 8,300 kids who receive free or reduced lunches. If schools close due to the Corona Virus, these food insecure families may face challenges feeding their families. This problem may be compounded if employers start cutting hours or closing their doors and wage workers end up without work.
A growing group of concerned teachers are launching this fundraiser to help our students.
This is not an official APS fundraiser. The teachers involved are doing this merely as concerned residents who want to supplement what the school system is already planning to support these kids.
The objective of this campaign is to get $100 grocery gift card into the hands of every APS student that qualifies for free or reduced lunch. That’s $830,000.
*Are you an Arlington Teacher/staff? Please consider $100 to support just one child.
*Are you a parent of current or former Arlington students? Consider how much you spend for food for your kid for two weeks, and consider offering that amount.
*Are you just concerned about these families and know that your money will be very immediately appreciated? Then open your pockets and give what you can.
No amount is too small, or too large. We are thrilled to see former APS students as early donors to this effort.
Please share this with as many people as possible to help us meet our goal as quickly as possible.
Q: What if the schools don't close? (update: they have closed)
A: We will still distribute the grocery cards as soon as possible. I'm guessing your family already filled their pantry "just in case", right? Let's extend that sense of security to everyone. We have no doubt that the food will be well utilized by these families who struggle to live in our great community.
Q: What will you do with the schools closed? (updated 3/14)
A: We have contacts with most of the high need schools. Office staff will still be coming to the schools and along with counselors and social workers, they are making plans to get these gift cards to the families as soon as possible.
Q: What if you don't reach your goal?
A: Then we (the community) didn't try hard enough. It is a big goal, but we have a lot of very caring and generous people in Arlington, many of them can easily donate hundreds of dollars without impacting their ability to feed their families. Keep spreading the word, and see if we can tap into a few more wonderful and generous supporters.
A2: BUT, if we do fall short of our goal, we will work with school social workers to determine where the funds can be best used. We will prioritize gift cards to the most vulnerable kids in the neediest schools first by starting with elementary students who qualify for free lunch at our Title I schools. The more donations we receive, the further we can reach into our community and the more children we can help.
Read more about Title I schools in Arlington here: https://www.apsva.us/titlei/
Q: How will you get the grocery cards to families?
A: We will work with each school and their staff (social workers, counselors, admin) to connect the gift cards to the right students/parents.
Q: Do you need any help?
A: We will need help at every school, whether by teachers and staff in the building, or that school's PTA. Contact us to volunteer.
A2: Our next step involves trying to leverage this money for discounted grocery cards. Anybody with connections with Giant, Safeway, or Harris Teeter (corporate side) should contact us.
Q: Can I donate food, gift cards, etc. directly to the schools?
A: It can be tough for the schools to deal with lots of random people and donations. Many of the schools are already starting their own in-building efforts (canned food drives, etc.) that we encourage you to join. But we are hoping this county-wide effort will help level the field, as we have some schools with a significantly higher need. Consider donating and volunteering with AFAC, which serves many needy families in Arlington every day of every year. https://afac.org/
Some more logistical details:
My Name is Aaron Schuetz. I'm the teacher who opened this funding project and am handling some of the logistics, but there are multiple teachers running this effort. GFM does, however, want the name of the originator to be present in the description. I have been teaching physics at Yorktown High School for 15 years, and have been living in the Lyon Park neighborhood of Arlington for that entire time. Arlington is a great community, and I've been lucky to work for Arlington Public Schools for the bulk of my career. Our effort as concerned residents is to supplement what APS is already doing because we know the needs and anxieties are high for many of our county's most vulnerable families.
The way the money process works:
GoFundMe collects the money from your generous credit card donations. After a little time and a small service fee, it will become available and can be deposited in my bank account. Because the process causes a delay of more than a week, the teachers are using their personal credit cards to purchase $5k or $10k worth of gift cards, and then will be reimbursed through the funds in the bank. Every transaction is tracked by several members of our team, including confirmation of delivery of every card to a member of the receiving school's staff.
Due to the rapid deployment of funds, we cannot wait for a single bulk corporate purchase of grocery gift cards. We are working hard to get every dollar out as soon as possible. As of 3/13 that was almost $40k, and we anticipate at least $40k will be distributed Monday. We are not sharing publicly how much goes to each school, but we are working with each school to meet their most urgent needs first.
In another volunteer effort, I am on the Board of Governors for the Lyon Park Community Center. This has allowed me to secure the help of our our organization's financial officer to ensure the books are kept properly. He has agreed to double-check the books and ensure fidelity. Thank you for your donation.
Remember your local food bank (http://www.AFAC.org for Arlington) has huge needs right now, and is well set up for receiving donations and leveraging them effectively to benefit the needy. They also always need volunteers.
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- Peter Campbell