ST. GEORGE — Findlay auto dealerships presented two giant checks for $12,000 each to local charity organizations Neighborhood Connection and the Washington County School District Foundation on Thursday.
Both charities focus on providing Washington County school kids essential nutrition, supplies and support they need to enable learning in the classroom, and the $24,000 donated will be spent entirely on the kids.
Steven Dunham, communications director for the school district, received the check as the director of the Washington County School District Foundation.
“It’s hard to believe that here in St. George we have such a need, but we really do,” he said. “More than 40% of our children qualify for free or reduced lunch. Last year we had a little over 600 children that were considered homeless in the district.”
To help students in need, Dunham said they developed a “counselor closet,” that helps students in crisis.
“It has snack items to fulfill quick hunger between meals,” he said. “If a child has an accident and needs a new pair of pants or change of underwear, we can supply that. We have a lot of kids that come to school with insufficient footwear, or in need of jackets as it gets colder — again, the counselor closet will supply those needs.”
Members of the foundation receive lists of most-needed items from county school counselors and buy and gather products accordingly and then stock the items in a district warehouse.
“Counselors can go online to order for 24-hour shipping or in-store pickup from one of our local retailers and get a pair of shoes for a child,” Dunham said. “Our counselor closet provides that immediate need for the child that counselors see in our schools.”
“We want to make sure the children have everything they need to be successful,” he added.
Referring to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Dunham said students don’t effectively learn course material until they have the basic foundations met: hunger, sleep, hygiene and feelings of safety. The counselor closet is designed to provide those basics for Washington County school kids.
“That’s why this (donation) is so tremendous,” he said. “It’s helping us have that stockpile for shoes, coats, even fidget items to help kids calm down, refocus and get back to learning. The goal is to keep them learning.”
Washington County School District is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that primarily provides grants up to $500 for teachers in Washington County, Dunham said. Teachers have to report what items they are buying for the students, how it’s going to help them learn and what their expected result is when applying for a grant.
Last year, Washington County School District gave about $310,000 to teachers in the school district, Dunham said, with more than 699 grants to teachers.
Neighborhood Connection is a local nonprofit that feeds 800 Washington County elementary students a week with packed meals children take home for weekend food. The nonprofit also hosts charity packing events 35 weeks of the year, where volunteers work as an assembly line to package individual meal packs that school counselors later give personally to students in need.
Each food pack takes about $3 to make, and the nonprofit needs about $96,000 a year to feed its hungry students.
This is the first year Findlay donated charity funds from its annual charity golf tournament to school charities.
Karyn Keanaaina, marketing director of Findlay St. George, explained this year’s decision.
“Historically, this is our 10th year that we’ve done the charity golf tournament,” she said. “We’ve always done charity for the search and rescue team, but we had an influx of new management, and they decided they wanted to spread the love a little bit.”
Findlay’s golf tournament took place in June at Coral Canyon Golf Course. The 28 teams of four people donated $24,000 of charity money at the event.
“About 30% of students in Washington School District are below poverty level,” Keanaaina said. “We want to raise awareness that there is a huge need in this community.”
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