COVID-19 Crisis Relief Response Reaches $50,000 Goal

Families Helping Families LogoFamilies Helping Families Campaign provides critical grocery aid

Families Helping Families, the COVID-19 Crisis Relief Response campaign surpassed its $50,000 fundraising goal. To date, 578 gift cards were distributed to 407 Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) families during the effort. Cash contributions were used to buy 559 gift cards, the rest of the gift cards were donated. The gift cards were from grocery stores and general merchandise stores that stock canned goods, fresh produce, and other necessities.

Families Helping Families was inspired by a similar campaign that benefited Albert Einstein High School. Einstein's Pupil Personnel Worker (PPW) Julia Williams, and Parent Community Coordinator (PCC) Oscar Buitrago, approached the Office of Student Family Support and Engagement (OFSFSE) about expanding their school's gift card fundraiser.

Steve Neff MCPS Headshot"There was an interest in ramping [the campaign] up to have it be equitable across all of our system," said Steve Neff (pictured at right), director, Pupil Personnel and Attendance Services (PPAS) and we knew that we needed support and guidance to do that well."

Members of the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations (MCCPTA) were eager to use their network to promote the campaign. They e-blasted campaign information and encouraged recipients to forward the information to others.

In support of their efforts, the Foundation created online donation pages and news articles in addition to accepting contributions online and through a special PO Box dedicated to the campaign. Program Administrator Jeanne Young fulfilled the PPW and PCC gift card requests using the Foundation's purchase card. "We had the challenge of conducting two campaigns at once," said Yolanda Pruitt, executive director, MCPS Educational Foundation. "This campaign had to succeed largely through the parent network. The social media component had to wait for a school supplies campaign to be completed. We very much appreciate the parent interest and enthusiasm that drove the community response."

OSFSE created an online tool that could be accessed by PPWs and PCCs to request denominations of gift cards for MCPS families. The tool also recorded beneficiary information. MCPS Social Workers and Counselors sent their requests for gift cards to the PPW or PCC at their school. The PCC and PPW would make the final recommendation for up to 10 families per school. The total value of the gift cards each family received was based on the size of the family.

Neff explained that a school's PPW and PCC are well-suited to make these recommendations because they work "every single day, every single week...with families who are struggling."

"I call it the trifecta," said Everett Davis (pictured at left), director, Student, Family and School Services (SFSS). "OSFSE staff knew how to find the families to help. The Foundation worked out the nuts and bolts of gift receipt and acknowledgment], gift card purchases, and delivery of the gift cards [to OSFSE] and the parents raised awareness and asked families to donate. "

Neff agreed, "It's a great example of a partnership because ... it was all three [organizations' expertise] that made [the campaign] work."

Families Helping Families is a crisis response campaign and will end when the raised money is distributed. However, Davis says the lessons from the campaign can and should continue. "COVID has presented so many challenges for us," said Davis, "'s also presented so many opportunities for being innovative and creative about how we do business and provide support."