Albemarle County students in need have a new place to turn for assistance.
A group of Albemarle County parents recently launched the Families Helping Families Fund, which is aimed at helping students overcome obstacles to learning during the pandemic and beyond. Educators, students and families can request help through a confidential application, which was launched last week. Requests can be related to specific circumstances, basic needs or collective problem solving.
A committee of parents and educators will decide whether and how to grant the different requests. Students must be part of the Albemarle County school division to receive assistance. Funds will be given to schools’ parent-teacher organizations to distribute to families.
The fund’s organizers are hoping to raise $150,000 this year and $500,000 over the next three years. The Charlottesville Area Community Foundation is managing the fund and gifts are tax-deductible.
Albemarle County’s Parent Council has discussed the need for such a fund or a central parent-teacher organization fund similar to what Charlottesville parents launched in August. Those discussions helped in part to create the Families Helping Families Fund.
“The wonderful thing is working together with the schools to do this,” said Daisy Rojas, an Albemarle parent and one of the fund’s co-organizers.
“So it’s not an expectation that the schools solve the problem. It’s that we will come together — as community members as parents, concerned citizens — working together with schools to determine what the needs are and how we can make sure that they’re met, as a community.”
Rojas said school guidance counselors have helped fund organizers figure out how they can help.
“It’s schools and families helping families,” she said. “Creating that bridge has really been essential. I mean, we didn’t want to do something without the schools being able to work with us.”
Beyond the immediate needs the pandemic has created, Rojas said they want to help other parents navigate different resources available in the community and to tackle other schooling challenges, building off their own experiences helping their children through the public schools.
“What existed before COVID has been exposed during COVID,” Rojas said. “There are processes and systems and things that we think can improve circumstances for all children and especially those kids that have been suffering without resources all along.”
Their goal is have each school represented on the steering committee and they’re halfway there so far.
Basic needs that the fund could help with include food, transportation, study aids or furniture for online learning such as a desk.
“Our hope is that we’ll be working together with schools to provide programs, and so that money will go towards supporting the schools to be able to serve these kids,” Rojas said.
Rojas said they need families, educators and the community to tell them what the needs are in order to best direct the resources.
“So when we were thinking together about what are all the issues that everybody has, you can’t possibly know what they are,” she said. “That’s why we need more folks. We need folks from all different backgrounds to help discover what the needs are for our community, and also to get the word out so that people who need help would hear about this fund and know that we’re here to help.”
To get involved with the committee, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (434) 260-1079.
When the committee receives a request, Rojas said they’ll look at other available resources in the community that can help.
“So that may not be a monetary resource that we’re providing; it’s simply advising them of what’s here,” Rojas said.
The fund’s website includes a lengthy page of resources to help families.
To donate, go to albemarlefhf.org.
Rojas said every little counts.
“I think it’s really important that we say we care about everyone in our community, not just the people that live right next door,” she said. “And I think it’s going to make a huge difference.”