With unemployment soaring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, now, more than ever, there are local families with students that have urgent needs, including housing. “Currently, nearly one-third of OSD students has significant need; 300 are houseless,” says Katy Johansson, executive director of the Olympia School District Education Foundation. These needs need to be met and that’s what makes this year’s Virtual Principal’s Emergency Fund Breakfast on September 24 so important.
Created by Congressman Denny Heck, his wife Paula, a retired Olympia School District Principal and community members, the Principal’s Emergency Fund (PEF) allows OSD principals to easily and immediately help families in need. Needs include basic necessities such as deodorant and socks to helping with utility bills and rental assistance to keep water and electricity on, and roofs over families’ heads. “When I asked [a single mom of five kids] if she needed help with rent, she said she had $1,500, which is the cost of rent, but that’s all she had,” says an Olympia School District Principal. “So, she had to do one or the other: rent or food. She was ecstatic to get grocery vouchers so she didn’t have to risk their living situation.”
They have helped families with emergency housing after being displaced by fire or to escape a dangerous living situation, adds Johansson. “Last week I delivered gas and meal vouchers to a third-grade family who is staying in a small motel because they lost their apartment to a fire the day before the virus closed schools down,” shares an Olympia School District Principal. “They are relocating, so I helped with some initial rental fees as well.”
With COVID-19, The needs just kept growing. “The PEF has provided a vital lifeline for students and families in need during COVID-19,” Johansson continues. “When school buildings closed last spring, the OSDEF Board of Trustees quickly authorized additional PEF money for a new grocery voucher program. Thanks to a partnership with Stormans, Inc., between March and June, nearly 700 vouchers were redeemed at Bayview and Ralph’s Thriftway totaling nearly $36,000. This is on top of the $56,000 principals utilized last year to assist more than 1,300 students with rent, emergency housing, utilities, medical expenses, clothing, and so much more.”
“The vouchers given from Bayview and Ralph’s Thriftway were so appreciated and came at just the right time,” shares an Olympia School District parent. “We had not received any unemployment or stimulus money, and my daughter’s birthday was approaching. Everything I had planned to do had been canceled. We came up with a fun idea to bake a birthday cake for her at home. We used a voucher to buy all of the birthday cake supplies and other items that we needed. We truly appreciated this assistance from the community. It absolutely made my daughter’s birthday special, despite being quarantined at home, without many options or resources. Thank you!”
With schools going to online learning, the technology gap become even more of a burden for families without access to computer and/or internet. “The Foundation has set aside funding this year to provide reliable Internet access, so students are able to attend school via distance learning,” Johansson explains.
How You Can Help: Principals Emergency Fund Breakfast
Since 2008 the Olympia School District’s Principals Emergency Fund Breakfast has been raising money for all the needs (and many more) mentioned above. On Thursday, September 24 from 8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. will be the first virtual breakfast. Everyone who registers for the free event will receive a link approximately one week prior. You can register via the Olympia School District Education Foundation website.
The event will be emceed by KING 5 South Bureau Chief Drew Mikkelsen. OSDEF Executive Director Katy Johansson and Board President Jocelyn McCabe will join him live. There will also be pre-taped interviews with families who have received PEF assistance; OSD principals and counselors who have helped students with the PEF; and Hecks’ Heroes Award winners Kevin Stormans of Stormans, Inc. and Nidhi Krishna Kumar, an OHS student. Stormans and Kumar will be honored for going above and beyond to assist those with urgent basic needs. There will also be a special performance by local favorite cover band, Nana’s Pantsuit.
You can donate before and after the event at the Olympia School District Education Foundation website. The event will also be posted on the OSDEF’s website by mid-morning on September 24 for those who cannot view it live.
“Due to the effect that COVID-19 has had on so many local families, we expect this to be the biggest year of need for the PEF since its creation,” says Johansson. Let’s come together to help families in our community get through this trying time. We are stronger together.