Fulton County Schools first announced the indefinite closure of all schools March 12, with the closure to begin March 16 and continue until further notice. After Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order closing all public elementary, secondary and post-secondary in Georgia from March 18-31, the FCS closure will remain in effect until at least the end of March.
To help families in need of nutritional support during this time, FCS implemented a food distribution program beginning March 16, in which amilies could drive through or pick up free meals from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Lake Forest and Mimosa elementary schools; Haynes Bridge Middle School; and Tri-Cities, Banneker and Langston Hughes high schools.
However, there are still nutritional and financial gaps for some local families, said Dana Davis, the vice president for student enrichment for the AES parent teacher organization.
Davis said she, AES Principal Kathleen Stamper and other PTO members were discussing what they could do to help families in need during this time after the March 12 FCS indefinite closure announcement. They decided to raise money for grocery store gift cards to be picked up the morning of March 13, and they had about three hours to gather the funds, Davis said.
"I posted on my Facebook at about 6:30 a.m. last Friday, and I had to get the gift cards by 11 a.m. for pickup. I was expecting maybe $3,000 if we were lucky," Davis said.
Davis and her team raised $11,000 in a matter of hours to go toward grocery store gift cards from community members, AES teachers and beyond, which was able to assist about 30 AES families in need.
"We knew people would have holes to fill in [between what FCS offers]. Any time you go from having a kid home only from 2:30 [p.m.] to bedtime is a lot different than having them all day, snacking and eating all their meals at home," Davis said. "I just couldn't believe how much we raised. It just shows the heart of the community, the leadership of our school and the families are all invested. That kind of culture, you can't buy it."
Kimberly Wolf, president of the Webb Bridge Middle School parent-teacher association, said she felt the same. She, WBMS staff and her PTA team started a similar fundraiser and raised more than $15,000 in grocery store gift cards within three days, which helped 104 WBMS families in need. Gift cards were distributed March 18.
"It all was very sudden last week, and we all started panicking for the children we knew depended on those school lunches, ... and not all parents could go pick up the FCS meals," Wolf said. "We had people donating who don't have children at the schools [and] people who used to have children at the schools. ... People just wanted to help."
Donations can still be made to either organization. To donate to AES, Davis said to send donations to the AES PTO PayPal account at firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate to WBMS, visit www.wbmspta.org.