With a new school year less than three weeks away, there remains a lot of work before the first bell rings. This is true on all levels, from district administrators to building leaders to teachers, support staff to parents and students.
But while there are many challenges to reopening — hunger and a lack of supplies should not be among them.
We are grateful for the work of the Connected Community Schools Team — which did not wait for the start of classes in September — to begin their efforts to reach out and help the community’s students and families in need. Program staff, along with volunteers and other agencies, welcomed the start of the new school year with a community wide Pack Your Pantry Resource Fair, open to all, held in the side parking lot of Staley Elementary in the Rome City School District earlier this week.
The organization used the event to not just provide hundreds of area residents with food, cleaning products, school supplies and information and opportunities to connect with a host of local service providers but to introduce parents and kids to a group of new site coordinators as well as to the program and the services it provides, aiming for a seamless start of a new school year.
In addition to the Connected Community Schools group, were the Central New York Health Home Network, First Source Federal Credit Union, YWCA, First Student Bus Company, MVP Health Care, Upstate Cerebral Palsy, ACR Health, Safe Schools Mohawk Valley, Care Net, Mohawk
Valley Community Action Agency, Inc., Community Health and Behavioral Services, YWCA Mohawk Valley, Helio Health, Center For Family Life and Recovery, Inc., and Resource Center for Independent Living.
Since its start in Rome, the organization has also opened resource hubs in Waterville and Dolgeville; operates satellite mental health clinics embedded in sites across the three district, formed a Community Response Team for COVID-19, instituted a community kids snack program, reached 100 community partners for its advisory board, conducted a variety of summer programs including its first ever virtual summer program, created and implemented data tracking and supports for continued analysis of program outcomes, created an iLearning program and further developed the CCS model and infrastructure.
These efforts have helped thousands of youngsters across these school districts and their families meet an overcome a host of obstacles and challenges and have helped instill a hope for the future and a foundation where these youngsters can concentrate on being students instead of worrying about food insecurity or other issues.
At the Pack Your Pantry event, the CCS crew served some 70 families, amounting to 239 individuals.
People came from Rome, Lee Center, Taberg as well as Camden and New York Mills. We applaud the program not just for its service to those individuals but for the many, many additional children and families to follow.