Schools may be closed, but the community in West Salem is bringing heart-warming lessons into the home.
As families face difficult financial times, the West Salem Education Association (WSEA) partnered with the West Salem Lions Club for a matching funds drive through April 29 to give grocery gift cards to struggling families in the West Salem School District.
The Lions offered $1,000, giving the effort a $2,000 base. WSEA Co-President Ryan Waldhart said they expect to serve nearly 250 families.
“There’s two parts to this,” Waldhart said. “We’re collecting money, and then we’re also trying to identify families who have come across some kind of hardship. Maybe a parent lost a job or is being furloughed amidst the pandemic here, or maybe there’s an illness or something. We’re really trying to just reach out to help our students and their families.”
In addition to giving back to local families, the effort supports the local West Salem Hansen’s IGA.
“Hansen’s is just that small-town kind of grocery store,” Waldhart said. “They often have a hard time competing with the bigger entities, so we decided pretty quickly to purchase the cards right in town. Plus, it is more convenient for our families.”
The original goal was to raise $4,000, but support exceeded all expectations.
“On the pace we’re going, we should be able to give each family a $50 gift card, so we are targeting about $12,000 to hit that mark,” Waldhart said. “We’ve just had such an outpouring of generosity.”
Donations rolled in from teachers, support staff, administrators, school board members as well as local businesses and families.
“It’s been a challenging time for everybody,” Waldhart said. “We’ve been trying to serve our students and keep them engaged which is difficult when you’re not with them. We thought we could do a little bit extra to help out.”
According to Waldhart, 100 percent of donations will be used for the gift cards. Donations will be accepted through April 19. Contributions can be made via VENMO at @WSEACARES. Checks can be made to WESA with “Food Cards” in the memo line. Those can be mailed to the following address:
West Salem Middle School
c/o Ryan Waldhart
440 East Avenue
West Salem, WI 54660