Families Helping Families and Schools Helping Schools

Wood Acres Elementary School PTA Helps Sister Schools during the COVID-19 Crisis

In spring 2020, the Wood Acres Elementary School (Wood Acres) Parent Teacher Association (PTA) saw families in the greater community experiencing new levels of financial strain because of the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic created. To help, they began raising money to purchase grocery store and Visa gift cards for the families struggling to buy food and other basic necessities. Leading the charge was PTA Community Service Chair, Julie Lane.

While some of the funds went to Wood Acres families, the majority went to families at two other schools in the area: New Hampshire Estates (NHE) and Oak View Elementary Schools (Oak View ES). New Hampshire Estates serves pre-kindergarten through 2nd grade and Oak View ES serves 3rd through 5th grade. Although they are separate schools, they are often treated like one and even have one unified PTA.

“Several of our community service events across the year support them,” explained Lane, “and we consider them to be our sister school.”

The relationship between Wood Acres, NHE and Oak View ES began before the pandemic in the late 1990's and the schools’ relationship has only grown.

Lane said, “...we started a holiday gift drive [in 2016] that’s been really successful where we adopt wishes from people in our sister community, which people in our community buy and we pass them along.” The holiday drive began in response to a Silver Spring apartment explosion that killed seven people and destroyed the homes of NHE and Oak View ES families.

“When the pandemic hit and we knew people were going to be experiencing financial difficulty… I reached out to [NHE and Oak View ES] and said, ‘How can we help?’” said Lane, “They said, ‘Please support the community food programs... and also, we’re just going to need gift cards to help families get food.’”

Lane and her PTA followed this suggestion and began collecting money to purchase gift cards. Despite an unconventional method for accepting gifts, Wood Acres’ PTA raised $2,580 during spring 2020. However, as the new school year approached, they knew they had to develop a different system.

“People want to help, but I could understand if they would have trepidation or hesitancy about contributing [to anything other than a foundation]," said Lane. 

It was around this time that Lane saw an announcement in her son’s middle school PTA newsletter about the Families Helping Families campaign.

“The MCPS Educational Foundation fund was perfect,” said Lane, “because it allowed us to provide the support that we wanted to…within the rules of the PTA.”

After partnering with the Foundation, the Wood Acres PTA raised an additional $2,800 from 56 donors – pushing the Foundation’s Families Helping Families campaign over its $50,000 fundraising goal.

“Families are struggling in a very real way as a result of the pandemic,” said Lane when asked why someone should donate to this cause. “Families that were already living a hard life are facing new obstacles and not having access to very basic necessities like food or toiletries or warm clothing. This is a very direct way to put some relief into their hands and it’s structured in a way that allows schools to collectively show support for their fellow students across Montgomery County.”