-by S. Woodward
Since 1985, when the Norfolk Community Chest became the United Way of South Hampton Roads (UWSHR), Virginia Beach City Schools (VBCPS) staff and students have been supporting their programs through an annual campaign. Raising money during this yearly event often brings out the creativity of the school community, from bake sales and penny fundraisers to crazy hair days, jeans days, principals taped to walls and even a few pies in the face.
The result has always been thousands of dollars directed toward helping families, and students with meals, mental health supports, wraparound services, housing and more. For example, in 2020, United Way provided more than 2.5 million meals and more than 71,000 health visits, and 8,000 children directly benefited from donations made through a United Way Campaign.
“The campaign this year was completely different from in previous years,” says Mary Norton, public relations coordinator for VBCPS and one of the organizers for 2020-21 drive. “This was obviously due to COVID. However, this year was also one of the most important for us to work diligently to encourage participation in the campaign. We set a lofty goal of $100,000. This amount is less than prior years, however, with all that is going on, and the high needs many families are experiencing from increased housing, gas, food and utilities costs, we weren’t even sure that $100,000 was realistic.”
But the VBCPS family came through and raised nearly $150,000.
“Our students alone raised more than $20,000 of that money!” Norton reports. “It’s amazing to see what truly heartfelt, genuine love and support our students feel for each other and their community at large.”
More than $80,000 of the donations were allocated to six designations, including the United Way community care fund, the Virginia Beach Education Foundation, the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia, the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, the Virginia Beach SPCA and the American Cancers Society’s South Atlantic Division.
It’s not too late to give to this year’s campaign. While the payroll deduction portion of the campaign has closed, VBCPS can still count your check or cash donations as part of this year’s campaign. If you would still like to make a donation, please email Mary.Norton@vbschools.com.