Jackson Children's Fund bridges the gap between school and home

Sunday, October 18, 2009
Ruth Ward is a social worker at Jackson Children's Fund. (Fred Lynch)

Editor's note: This is the seventh in a series of stories with an introduction from Nancy Jernigan at the United Way highlighting volunteers and agencies who are active in or funded by the United Way of Southeast Missouri. To get involved, visit the United Way online at www.unitedwayofsemo.org, at its offices at 430A Broadway or by phone at 334-9634.

The United Way of Southeast Missouri works through our area school districts to meet the needs of children when there are individual situations or conditions preventing them from being in the classroom ready to learn. A Children's Fund has been set up in area school districts to provide resources for a student's individual needs when a family is unable to. Teachers refer student needs to the fund coordinator, who then contacts the parents for additional information.

There are no restrictions on the use of the funds as cases vary and can be unique to the student. Having these funds in the schools is critical to meeting the individual needs of students and families. Few individuals are closer to a student than their teacher.

Ruth Ward, a lifelong Cape Girardean, works as a fund coordinator in Jackson. This is her sixth school year with the Jackson Children's Fund, and she said she is just trying to bridge the gap between school and home.

What exactly is the Jackson Children's Fund?

The Children's Fund is an emergency fund we are lucky enough to have in this district to use to assist families from our district in times of need. The money is spent on needs the family has that may affect their children's success in school. We pay for glasses, doctor visits, medication, clothing, shoes, school supplies, lunches, utility bills and rent on occasion. We have also helped with supplies to treat head lice. All of these things directly affect the child's success in school, so we try to eliminate some of the obstacles by using the Children's Fund.

What do you do there?

I am one of three school social workers the district employs. The social worker's role is to bridge the gap between school and home, to enhance communication between school and home, to connect families with community resources that would assist them in meeting their needs. The goal is to make sure every student had every opportunity to be successful and graduate from high school.

Why do you think it's important?

In today's world students have many obstacles in their way that make it difficult to be successful in school. Without a high school diploma the opportunities for employment are slim. If we can eliminate as many obstacles as possible then the rate of success increases for each student.

How are United Way and Children's Fund connected?

The money we have in our Children's Fund comes from the United Way.

Do you also volunteer, if so, where and why?

I volunteer for my church and my children's schools. I think parent involvement in school is directly related to the success of students. It shows the child that school is a priority.

How do you think working with the Children's Fund has changed/affected you?

I have seen the difficulties families have and in many cases the only resource available to help was the children's fund. It has kept families from being homeless. It is very rewarding to me when I see students achieve success and feel proud of their accomplishments. This means I have done my job to the best of my ability.

What lessons have you learned here?

Anyone on any given day could find themselves in need. So help when and where you can cause you never know when it could be you.

Tell us about a specific experience that sticks out for you:

I had a mother who was solely caring for herself and her four children. Because of abuse in the family, the father left the home and all financial responsibility was placed on the mother. With help from Children's Fund and support from the school community this mother made it.

Two of the children have now graduated from high school and gone on to further education. Had it not been for the help and support this mom received, she may not have made it. She told me herself she thinks she would have given up and let the kids live with other family members. This is success to me.

What can other people do to help the Children's Fund?

Continue to support the United Way. The money is used to help families in our community and it does make a huge difference to those in need. Our future is in our children and we need to give them every opportunity available to be successful in school. They will then go on to be successful adults.

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