As the world changed in 2020 due to COVID-19 The Advancement Center pivoted to meet the growing demands on Washington Township all while staying true to our mission. The week after school shutdown, The Advancement Center reached out to MSDWT administrators and social workers to better understand what the greatest needs were. Here’s what we knew: school and library closures would limit access to educational materials, especially for students who lacked internet access and that school closures, economic uncertainty and supply chain interruptions would exacerbate food insecurity and make it difficult to access even basic needs. We put a call to action out through email and social media for a one-week flash campaign and in less than one week we raised over $27,000 plus in-kind donations from 174 donors that included staff, alumni, parents, friends and community members. The Advancement Center put that money into action by working alongside social workers to identify our most vulnerable students and families. Personalized at home learning kits were distributed with appropriate novels, games and activities that were selected to be relevant for age, reading level and culture.
For example, one family had 5 children ranging from elementary school to high school with two of them having very special needs. The game included for this family was Yard Yahtzee. This selection was able to engage the entire family, young and old, support social and emotional opportunities, reinforce math skills and also serve as a large size manipulative perfect for the two students with special needs.
In total, 256 students, grades K-12, received at home learning kits filled with work and activity books, school supplies, books, puzzles, games, craft supplies as well as social and emotional supports. In addition, 215 students, grades PK-3, identified as high risk for learning loss received summer learning kits containing summer workbooks, school and craft supplies as well as social and emotional learning items. We also focused on the basic needs of 57 families that received kits with cleaning supplies, personal care items, diapers, formulas, and family games not readily available early in the pandemic. We also secured 350 masks for the MSDWT child nutrition employees doing weekly food distribution available for all students. As the stay in place order wore on, 60 families received food boxes with additional meals, pantry staples and social and emotional resources. Finally, over 200 headphones were provided to social workers to distribute to families with multiple students learning in small spaces.
The Advancement Center also capitalized on community organizations and partnered with them to provide families with support beyond what the District and Advancement Center could provide. We prepared, partnered and produced results for our most vulnerable in the District. As Washington Township Schools begins the school year virtually, we are poised and ready to aid the District however we can all while focusing on our fall grant cycle and alumni engagement activities.