School programs address increased needs during COVID, holiday season

By: Derrick Forsythe, Correspondent
Posted 12/18/20

The challenges of COVID-19 related to instability of employment and limited contact with others, as well as cutbacks within the school, have made access to resources scarce and all the more necessary …

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School programs address increased needs during COVID, holiday season

Posted

The challenges of COVID-19 related to instability of employment and limited contact with others, as well as cutbacks within the school, have made access to resources scarce and all the more necessary this holiday season.

As many families in the county find themselves in unexpected financial predicaments and in need of support with Christmas approaching, it’s often the school district to which they turn. For some, resources provided by the schools are a year-round help. But the need can be particularly important during winter months.

In times like these, programs such as Care to Learn, Operation Backpack and Unite Wright City are paramount in assuring a warm and joyous holiday for area families. 

R-III recently hosted a hygiene and hoodie drive, receiving an overwhelming response.

“It was a smashing success,” said Hillary Lammert, Care to Learn coordinator for the district. “We really didn’t know what it would look like. We had totally empty shelves and now it’s totally full.” 

Care to Learn has been pivotal in making sure students’ health and hunger needs are met.

“We have seen an increase in the needs related to food,” said Lammert. “We do definitely have limitations this year with COVID.”

Typically, the WISE Foundation helps support the Operation Backpack program, which enables students to take home food for consumption outside of school-provided meals. When the school closed its buildings in March, Care to Learn stepped in to provide continuity.

“We haven’t had families having any lapse in coverage,” said Lammert. “Care to Learn paid to continue providing for coverage for families to make sure the need was met.”

Lammert says around 100 students are signed up for Operation Backpack.

Another R-III resource that was helpful in the past but no longer is available is the Rebecca Boone Elementary Trading Post. Formerly, a variety of essential items were housed in a vacant room in the building and students could purchase those using currency earned through behaviors and incentives. 

It was an especially coveted resource during the holiday season, as students would pick out Christmas presents and have them wrapped to take home for family members. However, space limitations prompted the closure of the Trading Post in 2019.

“The gift giving was a wonderful thing that came out of the initial reason for the Trading Post, which was to meet the needs on hand,” said Lammert. “They received so many donations it became a success.”

Lammert says there are still resource rooms available for students at both Black Hawk Middle School and Warrenton High School.

“The high school has a functional food pantry and some clothing as well,” said Lammert. “Whenever our younger students are needing those items, we can go access them.”

R-II is working closely with Unite Wright City, which was founded and is co-run by school board member Heidi Halleman. She says the organization just completed its Christmas adoptions and gift pick up process. 

“We are directing families in need to Agape,” said Halleman. “If there are last minute needs, we will try to get them filled.”

Unite Wright City covers a variety of needs, including coats and gloves. Students can also reach out to their school counselors, who will link with Unite Wright City to meet specific needs. Halleman says the United Church or Christ Clothing Boutique is also available to meet needs.

Community members can also reach out to Unite Wright City for service-related needs through its Facebook page or by contacting Hallemann at 636-384-0618.

Warren County School District, Wright City School District

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