Santa Fund logo 2019-20

{child_flags:top_story}Helping Albemarle’s neediest kids students in dire need

{child_byline}By ALLISON WRABEL

(434) 978-7261 {/child_byline}

Now in its 125th year, the Santa Fund again will help children in need across Central Virginia, including Albemarle County.

The Santa Fund, established in 1894, collects donations to provide vouchers for families to buy shoes, clothing, medicine, eyeglasses, school supplies and other essentials for children in need.

Sponsored by The Daily Progress and radio station WINA in a partnership with The United Way of Greater Charlottesville, the Santa Fund serves children in the city of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson and Orange.

“The clothing voucher was a blessing for our family,” said a parent at an Albemarle elementary school. “My husband was out of work on medical leave. At that time, I was the only one bringing in the income. The voucher was a huge help during this difficult time. I am very thankful to whoever makes this happen.”

Staff at Walton Middle School said the Santa Fund has changed many lives for many single moms and single dads over the years.

“Many have been brought to tears as they are struggling to just make ends meet, and starting back to school is stressful in itself for many of them,” they said in a statement. “Without the Santa Fund, we just don’t know how or where to assist a struggling parent to get affordable clothing for their children or child.”

The Walton staff said the fund has allowed the school to assist many families that may not have had an opportunity to get new clothing, and the school would not otherwise have been able to find the resources to assist families in crisis situations.

“Thank you for your continued support for our families in southern Albemarle County, it truly makes a difference in the lives of many,” the staff said.

Kevin Kirst, director of special education and student services for the Albemarle school division and the county’s Santa Fund coordinator, said the school system is appreciative of the support the students receive from those who donate to annual drive.

“Unfortunately, there are persistent pockets of poverty in the county and even with the generosity of Santa Fund contributors, we are not coming close to beginning to meet the need that exists,” he said.

“Too many families are having to choose between food and clothes when it comes to their children. Either way, the impact upon a child’s ability to learn under such conditions can be severely diminished. It also can last for a long time. As some of the stories we hear from recipients indicate, this help literally can change the life of a young child — and who would not want to help make that happen?”

County schools spokesman Phil Giaramita said the division’s free and reduced-price lunch population this year is 4,147, compared with 3,800 five years ago.

Albemarle will receive about 330 vouchers, and the total allotment increased this year from $28,000 to $33,000. The vouchers are provided to each of the county’s 25 schools and counselors in the schools decide which families receive a voucher, Giaramita said, as the counselors are best equipped to know each individual student and their needs.

“Since less than 10% of those in need will receive a voucher, the counselors select those in the most dire circumstances,” Giaramita said.

This year’s goal is $175,000. Last year, a record high of $175,180.73 was raised. The fund drive kicked off on Thanksgiving Day and continues until mid-January.

Contributions may be mailed to: Santa Fund, 806 E. High St., Charlottesville, VA 22902. Donations also may be made at thesantafund.org.

TODAY’S DONATIONS

» Andrew and Patricia Williams, $200

» Anonymous, $62.02

» Helen Barfield, $51.28

» Exxon, $100

» Anonymous, $10,000

Today’s total: $10,413.30

Running total: $16,762.14

Goal: $175,000

To reach goal: $158,237.86

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