GREENSBORO, N.C. — It’s been a tough year for many in the Piedmont Triad and thousands of families in the Guilford County school district alone are barely making ends meet.
“You know families that are just making it normally have had job losses, moving, and moving in with family and things like that so things are definitely different this year,” said Melanie Woodall, a school social worker at Irving Park Elementary.
Every holiday season Woodall organizes a fundraiser to buy Christmas gifts for her students and their families. Irving Park Elementary has about 580 students with a quarter of them lacking basic necessities and Woodall says with the pandemic this year, the need is even greater.
“There’s been a lot of housing issues but really I think beyond Christmas I would say there’s a lot of food and toiletries and things like that because even families that can qualify for things like food stamps that doesn’t cover toiletries. Cleaning expenses, toilet paper and things like that can get pricey,” Woodall said.
Food, clothing and personal care products top the list of items most requested.
“Students and families across Guilford County have experienced loss in so many ways this year. They’ve lost family members, they’ve lost experiences, they’ve lost employment and this has had a ripple effect on a lot of things and has led to a variety of needs,” said Shontria Carrington, supervisor of Dropout Prevention and Social Work Services for the district.
Carrington is in charge of the 79 social workers employed by the Guilford County School District and tells FOX8 each social worker checks in with students and their families daily.
“Food insecurity has been very high across Guilford County this year. There’s been an increase in the need for particular winter items that are needed for students and families,” Carrington said.
Woodall started a GoFundMe page for her school to meet the record number of needs this year.
“It always averages around 150 so I always start with that because that’s typical but there have been more this year and I get referrals from teachers, cafeteria workers, custodians and just families we’ve worked with over the years so it’s more this year,” Woodall said.
Woodall has already contacted more than 200 families promising to help them get through the winter.
“I always just say do the best you can. Teachers are giving a lot of grace and schools are giving a lot of grace and parents, as hard it is, they’re stepping up and they’re asked to do a lot more, just don’t give up and hang in there,” Woodall said.
To help a family in your community, you can contact your local school’s PTA or school social worker. Most schools are accepting monetary donations to purchase Christmas gifts and basic necessities.
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