Student/family aid initiative fills 600 requests for help

 

Students and families from the Kyrene Elementary School District can submit a request for various needs (such as shoes, clothes, etc.) via Purposity, and donors can anonymously fulfill that request.

By Diana Nelson

Imagine a social-media application that brings out the best in people—one that gives the community a chance to be generous as well as a specific purpose—and there you have the concept behind a unique digital tool called Purposity.

Last year, the Kyrene School District implemented the national program and, in one year, the results have exceeded expectations, explained Erin Schroeder, who coordinates Purposity for all the schools in the district.

“We’ve been able to fulfill more than 600 requests in the district in the initial year. All of them are for Kyrene students or for their families, and so far, no request has been unmet.

“It’s been a very heart-warming experience to know that we can deliver a specific item to help a student in need,” said Schroeder.

To date, Kyrene is the only school district in Arizona to use the application, and the donor list has attracted more than 1,000 active users, who have assisted 123 Kyrene families. The average price of a request is $30 and the most requested item is shoes.

Schroeder says she thinks this is because shoes are not provided through the district’s Family Resource Center, unlike other items of clothing.

“Another reason I really like this application is because teachers also can participate by submitting one of their student’s needs—say for a new pair of shoes—and then they are rewarded by being able to see that request being met.”

Purposity works in this way: members of the Kyrene community download the application and chose to respond to a text describing a request from a student. The recipient can decide to respond or pass on the request, particularly if the item exceeds their budget.

Shopping for the item is done online through Amazon. When the package is delivered to the offices of the Kyrene school district it is delivered to the specific student.

Both the requestor and the donor remain anonymous to one another.

Recently, Schroeder and the Purposity program were featured on Channel 3 television. In that segment, the program profiles the DeMarcus Walker family, which suffered a complete loss of possessions due to a fire in their apartment.

The Walker children attend Kyrene del Pueblo Middle School in West Chandler and requested help through the school.

“Initially we reached out just to get help with basics. Soap. Deodorant,” said Walker. “Things like that to get us by.”

However, in the end, the family received gift cards, clothing and cash to pay for the sports program for Walker’s son.

Schroeder said that 52 of the families who have been helped in the last year are experiencing homelessness, which means they don’t have a stable or permanent address.

Along with Purposity, Schroeder is at the helm of overseeing a variety of programs to assist families in the district, including the Kyrene Family Resource Center, the McKinney Vento homeless services and federal funding from Title One grants.

“The Kyrene School District currently has two schools designated as Title I: Kyrene de los Niños and Kyrene de las Lomas. Title I schools receive federal funding to provide supplemental services to academically at-risk students,” said Schroeder, who is the federal programs coordinator.

She also works closely with Leticia Beltran, who is the liaison to homeless students.

During the past four years, in her position with the district, Beltran notes that she has encountered many families in crisis—some kids move frequently and stay with various family members or friends. Several complete families live in their cars. For that family she was able to give each person a sleeping bag. Both Schroeder and Beltran say they feel gratified by the community response to the Purposity program.

“One of the requirements to start a Purposity program in a community is to be able to get 400 signatures on a petition. In Kyrene, we received that support within a few hours and the response level has remained high,” said Schroeder.

Information: www.purposity.com, enter a cell phone number and a zip code. Then, a weekly text alert will be sent to the registered phone to describe any requests.

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