George Bagby talks like a man with a lot of kids.
He doesn’t know names, doesn’t know faces. But he knows he wants to be there for them.
Bagby is a long-time educator and retired Hampden-Sydney College professor who saw a need that wasn’t being filled and decided to do something about it. And so, he began organizing and recruiting the currently seven-member board of directors for PE’s Kids made up of retirees and community-minded volunteers.
Now ready to go, PE’s Kids will help children in kindergarten through 12th grade, paying for soccer cleats, camp fees, music lessons, field trips, prom tickets, clothes and other items. They will not pay for items such as food, medical care, or group supplies. Board members will not meet or know the identity of the children but will be notified of the need by school officials – most likely counselors – serving as spotters. Children raising money for something – such as a band trip – can get a donation, but only after raising a portion of the money first, the guidelines note.
The parents of the child receiving fund will not get a check. Instead, a check will be written to the appropriate entity or gift card will be sent to the school official. But the parent will be allowed to do the shopping for the item.
“So the parent has the pleasure of taking the kid to the store to buy something,” Bagby said.
The average grant will be $100.
“It is one of those unmet needs in the community and there are so many of them,” Board Member and Public Relations Committee Chairman Lonnie Calhoun said.
PE’s Kids was formed last year but had to get its 501-c3 non-profit tax-exempt status, sign a Memorandum of Agreement with the school system outlining the relationship, and set up a bank account at Benchmark Community Bank on South Main Street. Limited to Prince Edward schools for now, the hope is to eventually expand to Buckingham and Cumberland counties schools.
PE’s Kids is a localized version of Alexandria-based Alice’s Kids — a non-profit founded in 2011 by Ronald J. “Ron” Fitzsimmons, its executive director, and his sister – which has a mission of enhancing children’s self-esteem by providing them targeted financial assistance. They provide grants averaging $100 to school age children identified as in need of assistance by the organization’s network of teachers, social workers, homeless shelter staff, and others.
Bagby was inspired after reading about the group’s efforts. “I said, ‘That is incredible — they’re doing all these things in these children’s lives that are making a difference,’” he said. “It’s a neat idea. I think it’s a cool idea to do small things for kids that in their life makes a difference.”
“We are each other’s brothers,” Bagby said. “We are the parents of PE’s Kids – to get those soccer cleats for that boy, to get that winter coat for that girl.”
The need is particularly urgent as many households have little wiggle room in their budget and are one paycheck from being in financial straits.
There are so many people asking (for help) and there is so much need out there,” Calhoun said.