Filling in the gaps
After a short presentation and overview of what the Gap Fund program does and how it is funded, the New Richmond Area Community Foundation presented the program a check for $4663.57.
The Gap Fund program was established in 2008 when the District School Nurse identified the “gap” in funds available for those “extra” essential items needed for a student to be successful in the school setting. While the Salvation Army, local churches, various medical practices and physicians have continued to help in a time of need, it was imperative to have the money available before the money is actually needed for those items falling through the cracks.
“The Gap Fund is about trying to make everybody feel normal,” said Joan Simpson, co-director of the Gap Fund. “If your parents can’t provide or you can’t have it you still deserve that as a kid. That is when the community says ‘I’m going to help you. I’m going to give you socks, clean clothes, eyeglasses and all that stuff, because we care.’ That is what the Gap Fund is all about.”’ Simpson, who serves as the school nurse for the New Richmond School District, along with Gap Fund co-director Katy Neitzke, has been speaking to various organizations and individuals throughout the New Richmond community and partnered with the New Richmond Area Community Foundation to expand the funds for this program. The total current balance is $5,343.46.
“When I started this year, as of Sept. 1, I had $478.88 in my account and I was thrilled because that was the most money I had seen in a long time,” Simpson said. “But now, as of yesterday, I have $5,343.46. I can help a lot of kids with that money.”
Some examples of uses include: college application fees, clothing items (especially underwear, socks and sweatpants), laundering clothes, winter apparel (boots, coats and snow pants), sports physicals, medication co-pays, eye and dental exams, eyeglasses, prenatal vitamins, taxi costs for pregnant students to get to WIC or OB appointments and oral care products. The first priority is always to look at what is available from other agencies, organizations and funding options, but sometimes there is no available funding, or a “gap.”
“We tell the kids that this is an investment from your community from people who care,” Simpson said. “I took one kid to Treadmill to get him a good pair of running shoes and you would have thought the kid had gotten an enormous birthday cake with how happy he was. When we were checking out, the lady at the register told us she was going to split the difference with us for the shoes. I told her that it was not my money, it was the community’s money, so we could pay for the shoes ourselves, but she insisted because when she saw the kid’s face light up when he got the shoes she wanted to do it for him. That was just last week.”
As the word spreads and the needs continue to increase with the economic times, more and more funds are being dispersed from this fund to help many students in New Richmond.
“The goal of the Gap Fund has always been for every child, regardless of their home environment or financial status, to appear the same as any other child in our school and have their basic needs met by a community that cares,” Simpson said. “When basic needs are met we can build on educational success and collaboratively strive for all students to become contributing members of society.”
In addition to being the co-director, Simpson is the only person who knows the identities of the kids the Gap Fund helps.
“Joan is the only person who knows the people we help with the fund, and that is a good thing because it allows the kids to have privacy and to keep their dignity,” Neitzke said.
To contribute to the Gap Fund, contact the New Richmond Area Community Foundation at 715-246-3999 or contact Joan Simpson at 715-243-7424.
Submitted by the Gap Fund, compiled by Jordan Willi