Nelson County schools have given out 62 vouchers this year through the Santa Fund for Schoolkids, but still have plenty left to go around.
“That’s well under what we usually get,” said Sandra Irby, director of special education and student services and coordinator of the division’s Santa Fund. “By this point in the year, we should be over 200.”
Families in need of assistance should reach out to school staff to take advantage of the program that provides vouchers for shoes, clothing, school supplies and other essentials.
Because of virtual schooling constraints, Nelson County staff members haven’t been able to spread the word about the program or refer as many families, Irby said. The division started the school year all-online.
“The fact we aren’t seeing them, and we aren’t having those in-person conversations with parents where they might reveal that they have a financial stress to a teacher or a counselor in the building that would normally tip us off to say, we have this fund,” she said. “ … I imagine that there are many more stressors than in a normal year right now.”
Administered by the United Way of Greater Charlottesville, the Santa Fund for Schoolkids helps children in the city of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson and Orange.
Now in its 126th year, the Fund is co-sponsored by The Daily Progress and radio station WINA-AM. The annual fundraising drive, with a goal this year of $175,000, kicked off Thanksgiving Day and runs through mid-January.
For more information, go to unitedwaycville.org/ourimpact/financialstability/santa-fund.
Families can receive vouchers that range from $75 to $100 and can be used at participating area stores. The United Way expanded the program this year to help with needs related to COVID-19, such as paying for internet service, virtual learning centers in the community or physical materials teachers have said children will need to complete their assignments.
Virtual learning hasn’t changed the needs that much. Students are still in need of clothes for online class meetings and school supplies. Families can be referred to the program by a teacher, health care provider, social worker and others.
“They’re still in school virtually, and they can still get vouchers for shoes, coats, gloves and hats,” Irby said.
There’s no means-test required for families to receive assistance.
Irby said the vouchers normally aren’t used to pay for items like pajamas because they wouldn’t be used at school.
“But when parents let me know their child needs pajamas, I will put a special permission on there for pajamas,” she said. “I feel like a good, warm night sleep is required for school.”
Irby said that in the last few years, the division has exhausted its allocation from The United Way and required more money to meet families’ needs. About 56% of Nelson County students are considered economically disadvantaged.
“It’s a wonderful service and I hope people will take advantage of it,” Irby said.
In honor of our grandsons: Teddy and Emmett, $200
William and Renee Vollrath, $50
Pamela Hand and William Hueston, $250
With gratitude to medical personell. Bette + Charlie, $100
John and Daphne Elliot, $250
Daniel and Elizabeth Kvetko, $100
William Tracz, $50
Love to all the children, $25
Geraldine Tracz, $50
In gratitude for a new administration in Washington, $102.56
In memory of Riley Cole, $102.56
In honor of my Santa, Fred. From Nancy, $51.28
In memory of Betty Haas, $51.28
Vonda, Mike & Jazzy Ogden, Wintergarden, FL, $205.12
Susan, David & Emma Levy, Anchorage, AK, $51.28
Paul and Billie Jo Powell, $102.56
Santa’s Elves, $25.64
TODAY’S TOTAL: $1,917.28
RUNNING TOTAL: $36,319.67
TO REACH GOAL: $138,680.33