The GPD Group Employees’ Foundation, Inc. changed their process for distributing grants to K-12 schools this year to respond to the unique circumstances of teaching during a pandemic.
At the start of the school year, the Foundation met with a panel of teachers, superintendents, intervention specialists, and principals to discuss what they needed in their current learning environment.
“We knew the best way to actually make a meaningful impact was to talk with the people who are with the kids every day to better understand where they are lacking and what resources they need,” says Katie Coberly, GPD Group’s Internal Communication Specialist.
It became clear that schools needed supplies that could be sent home for virtual learners, classroom supplies that allow for individual use over sharing, hygiene products, mental wellness breaks, technology, and food support. Most importantly, the schools needed funds quickly.
In response, the Foundation shortened the application process and awarded grants that fit into one of five COVID-19 related categories: Supplies/Manipulatives, Technology, Food, Hygiene/Health, and Mental Wellness. Grants were also awarded on a rolling basis this year to speed up the distribution of funds.
“The GPD Employees’ Foundation has always supported teachers. By streamlining their grant form this year, it has enabled teachers to get materials into student’s hands right away to benefit them as we are all struggling through this pandemic.” – Ann Hagedorn, Tallmadge City Schools, Tallmadge, Ohio
In total, the Foundation distributed $270,000 in grants to K-12 schools throughout Ohio and across our office footprint to support a variety of needs.
Cynthia Carrier Vajda, an 8th grade teacher for Edison Local Schools in Milan, Ohio, received a grant to purchase supplies and postage for her students to make, write, and send cards to senior citizens in the community. “It provided my 8th graders with a chance to reach out to the community during a time when they are feeling very alienated due to the pandemic. They received over 100 responses from people who received the cards in the mail. The responses included words of wisdom and historic details about our school district which ties in nicely with our history class,” explained Carrier Vajda.
A total of 19 grants were given to teachers at Akron Public Schools to support their district-wide remote learning system. Teachers discovered that many of their students did not have a designated place to work and that many students were having a hard time adjusting to working exclusively on the computer. The Foundation supported them in purchasing over 500 lap desks for students, computer mice made for small hands to make online learning more user friendly, and headphones for students having a hard time hearing or concentrating on their work.
Other grants included support for virtual book clubs, additional Chromebooks, personal whiteboards to practice writing and for answering questions online, food storage systems to support meal giveaways, and more.
The GPD Employees’ Foundation feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to assist teachers as they worked to create new environments and support their students amid a global pandemic. Thank you, educators, for your flexibility and dedication during this trying year!