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Parent-led nonprofit launches fundraising fund for Albemarle County teachers

An Albemarle County nonprofit wants to make sure that every teacher in the school division is recognized during Teacher Appreciation Week next month.

Families Helping Families, an organization led by area parents and community members, is raising money so that every teacher receives something during the appreciation week.

That could include personal thank-you notes, community-made posters, snacks in the teacher lounges, or donations to less-resourced parent-teacher organizations, which typically spearhead appreciation efforts.

So far, Families Helping Families has almost reached its $4,500 fundraising goal, according to its GoFundMe campaign. The organization also is accepting volunteers to help with their plans.

Heidi Gilman Bennett, an Albemarle parent, is leading the teacher appreciation initiative for Families Helping Families.

“Our teachers have been carrying so much of the weight of this pandemic for our kids,” Bennett said in a news release. “They’re addressing academic needs while also coping with the social and emotional impacts of two-plus years of disrupted school, amid a great deal of negative attention on teachers and schools in our country.”

Bennett added that so far volunteers have signed up to write more than 500 personal thank-you notes for substitute teachers as well as those at the virtual school, the Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention Center, Post High, Ivy Creek School and others.

“All of these teachers are amazing and deserve to be celebrated by parent groups during teacher appreciation week,” Bennett said. “We’re working to ensure that no ACPS teacher is left out.”

The Families Helping Families fund launched in early 2021 and is aimed at helping students overcome obstacles to learning during the pandemic and beyond. The nonprofit also wants to raise money to supplement the parent-teacher organizations and address funding inequities across the county Parent-Teacher Organizations.

“Inequities between our neighborhood schools are long-standing, but were exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Latara Ragland, the fund’s co-vice president, in the release. “In Albemarle County, schools with higher percentages of low-income families simply have lower amounts of PTO funding and volunteer hours. That impacts teacher appreciation events, which well-funded PTOs often host throughout each school year.”

The Teacher Appreciation Week efforts will focus primarily on secondary schools without active PTOs, including Albemarle High, Walton Middle and Burley Middle schools, according to the fundraising campaign. They are also prioritizing elementary schools with the highest percentages of working families such as Scottsville and Red Hill elementaries.

Schools Superintendent Matthew Haas said in the news release the appreciation effort was important work.

“Our strategic plan, Learning for All, is the cornerstone of our collective mission,” he said. “If we are to realize this goal, it will be because our teachers are enthusiastically embracing new teaching strategies, keeping classrooms safe, partnering with colleagues in professional learning communities and empowering students with the high-quality individualized support they need to reach their highest potential. Families Helping Families is making a vital contribution to this outcome.”

Those interested in participating can donate at or volunteer at The fund is a registered nonprofit. For more information, go to


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