Flagler Education Foundation; What They Do and Why They Do It

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The Flagler Education Foundation has been around for 33 years, and there are Education Foundations in every county in Florida.  The Flagler Education Foundation is a non-profit program of Flagler Schools, and they offer so many services, grants and projects to the school community. This Foundation offers career coaching, teacher grants, The Connect Bus, The STUFF Bus, The Josh Crews Writing Project, Classroom to Career Flagships and the Peter and Sue Freytag Take Stock in Children.

The organization started in 1990, and it was completely volunteer during that time.  As the community grew, the need for the organization began to grow as well, and that is when the first Executive Director, Nicole Brose, stepped in. Over the years it has gone from a completely volunteer based program to having a team of five on staff.

The Flagler Education Foundation's STUFF Bus

We sat down with current Executive Director Teresa Rizzo to really learn about what the Flagler Education Foundation does, how much of a need there is for this organization here in Flagler and how the community can help.

We started off talking about the S.T.U.F.F. Bus, which stands for ‘supplying things you find fundamental’. The idea behind this is to give all of Flagler County’s students the opportunities to be successful in school. The STUFF Bus collects things from supplies to clothes and toiletries and any other items that people can think of that a student may need to be successful at school. Every one of the 9 schools in Flagler County has a closet where the Foundation can put supplies. The main closet where items are stored and sorted is in Rymfire Elementary.

Connect Bus

A program like this helps students who may be at or below the poverty line and their families may be struggling to pay for school supplies. We wanted to know how many Flagler County Students were considered ‘homeless’ by the state standards. Rizzo provided me with information from Rashawnda Lloyd Miller who is the coordinator for the FIT program as well as serves on the Flagler Education Foundation Board. The McKinney-Vento Definition of Homelessness is children or youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, which includes youth who: share housing due to loss, live in motels or hotels, live in shelters, abandoned in hospitals, living in places public or private that are not designed or intended for residence, or living in cars, parks, or other locations. There are 188 students in Flagler County who fit this description, as of January of 2023.

Rizzo also noted that during the Back to School Jam, the foundation handed out over 500 backpacks full of supplies, and since that event they have handed out at least 500 more. When asked about some of the biggest challenges they face at this organization, Rizzo told us, “Getting the community to understand what our purpose is and what we do here. We are constantly working to make sure we can share our story and what our actual purpose is here. A lot of people ask the question of, ‘if we pay tax dollars why do we need a nonprofit to support our students in school?’ But our tax dollars don’t pay for everything our students need in school.”

One of the projects that Director Rizzo was most passionate about during our interview was the Josh Crews Writing Project. This project is paid for by the Education Foundation. The project is a writing club in every school and they publish the book of students work. They also do an author signing event at the Buddy Taylor Cafeteria where the student authors sit around at tables and the community can bring the books they have purchased to have them signed by all of the authors.  Director Rizzo said that among all of the memorable moments, that seeing these student authors sign their books that they have work published in, is probably the most memorable interaction she’s had with the students while working for the Flagler Education Foundation.

Flagler County Education Foundation Staff

Director Rizzo also shared some ways that the community can get involved with the Flagler Education Foundation. “We always say time, talent and treasure. We always need volunteers; we run four major events every year and always need help with setup and teardown. Financial help is always welcome, and donating items. We always welcome items being dropped off all year long.  Sometimes we need talent, like a logo designed for us, or something painted. Mentors, how could I forget mentors! Mentors is another way that you can give to the Education Foundation.” Rizzo continued by telling us where you can donate supplies to. Residents are able to donate directly at the Government Services Building at 1769 Moody Blvd in Bunnell. The STUFF Bus does travel around to businesses but it’s main location is at the Government Services Building. The bus has a drop box on the side so you can drop off supplies at any time of the day or night. There is also a wish list on the side of the bus, so that the community can see what kind of items the foundation is looking for.

 

By Krys DeWind

Krys DeWind has been a Flagler County resident since 2016. She is active in her community and is always looking for ways to better it. She has a community first attitude which is one of the central founding ideals of the Flagler County Buzz.

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