There’s one purpose behind United Way’s (UW) Kick-Off to Caring event: to make sure Toledo Public School students with compromised housing situations start the school year off ready to learn, no matter their circumstances. Last year, more than 1,000 volunteers, from all walks of life, worked together to collect donations and school supplies for 5,100 local students. This year, the event will be held on August 2, and once again, the community need is great.
The heart of the issue
To make an event like this happen, it takes a lot of people working together. Meredith Ryburn, director of campuses at Cornerstone Church, said, “The best things happen in the power of partnership. Last year, it was awesome to see so many people stepping up and taking responsibility for the community. It was such a beautiful and inspiring day; I even saw many people that I know from other organizations.” Ryburn spent the day loading backpacks with her husband, Phil, and their young son. “Although our son was very young at the time, we want to start those foundational values of being engaged in the community and giving back at an early age. It was a big family day,” she said.
In the past, Cornerstone has gathered school supplies and had a similar, but much smaller, event, so it was an easy decision to partner with United Way, allowing both organizations to divide the work across the entire city and also to devote resources to other future projects.
“We have seen a very widespread increase in homeless populations, breakdowns in family structure for various reasons, and more students in foster care and changing custody,” said Heather Baker, director of People Placement and Child Adjustment Services at Toledo Public Schools. “Our goal is to keep the little person as stable as possible, because everything they know is gone. We locate ‘wrap-around’ services to try to meet every need, so partnerships are essential.”
When TPS lost its funding for uniforms, tuition, and school supplies, through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grant, Heather knew the impact it would have on her 2,600 homeless students and 300 students without stable housing. She reached out to her fellow board members on the Income Community Solutions team of the United Way to develop a plan.
Ace in the hole
United Way is a large nonprofit that supports and funds many smaller community nonprofits helping with income assistance, education, and health for community members. The Kick-Off to Caring event is a natural partnership between UW and TPS because it supports the goals of each organization. Also, due to increased visibility by partnering with UW, many individuals, corporations, and smaller organizations can, together, serve a larger population.
Amanda Howard, corporate and community volunteers manager at UW, said, “It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of something so big and impactful. I would encourage everyone to see how their team can get involved with this event. Staff engagement will increase because their team will bond over doing something very valuable together. You can’t manufacture that type of feeling. We are so grateful to Owens Corning, Owens Illinois, ProMedica, Cornerstone, Cedar Creek, TPS- teachers, families, and the superintendent, and the community for coming together for an amazing cause.”
Because of the relationships that UW has with many bulk providers, an entire backpack can be filled with all necessary school supplies for $15, which goes a lot further than collecting supplies. Your $15 donation can help a student for an entire year. To make a donation please