I Promise School provides relief to their families amidst Covid-19

BY ARIANNA KASER

The LeBron James I Promise School and the LeBron James Family Foundation have been taking measures to provide for its students and families during this time. With COVID-19 bringing the state to a halt, the methods of support and help have had to evolve into essential item deliveries and prepared meals being sent out. The I Promise School and the LeBron James Family Foundation are taking the programs and ideas that are routine at the school and transforming them into things that can be done during quarantine. 

The philosophy of the I Promise School, also known as IPS, is based around helping as many kids and their families as possible. COVID-19 has become an obstacle for the LeBron James Family Foundation, but the staff has begun to form ways to overcome it. 

“The Foundation dreams big and somehow their dreams come to life,” said Kieth Liechty, the director between the school and foundation.

IPS has an entire wing of the school that has a primary focus of helping the students and their families. Issues that are addressed at the school are hunger, stress, legal aid, housing problems, and doctoral help. The virus has shut down the school, making some of those programs unavailable to those who need it. 

The Foundation has been able to revive some of these programs, but in the form of deliveries. The projects that address essential items and aspects are still in place. The I Promise School is the only large scale school in the area that is continuously addressing the issues that students are facing at home.

David Kaser, delivery volunteer, unloads one meal for a family out of the fifteen meals he was delivering that Tuesday. Each foil pan contains enough to feed a family of five, therefore most of the IPS families receive one, but a few get two. Photo courtesy of Arianna Kaser

Under regular circumstances, the I Promise School has a food pantry within the school building that is open to all of the families. The LeBron James Family Foundation has a partnership with Akron Canton Regional Food Bank and Walmart, making the food pantry possible. 

According to Victoria McGee, Director of the Family Resource Center within the school, the pantry is often referred to as the “Happy Happy Market” because they want the families to leave there happy.

With the coronavirus shutting the school down, the Happy Happy Market has turned into deliveries made by the staff out to the IPS families that need them and also to kids within the I Promise Network. The care packages include food and other basic necessities, like toothbrushes and toilet paper.

“We are trying to continue meeting their basic needs,” said Devi Wintrode, Director of Sustainability and Accountability.

The food pantry does not have a limit on how much food a family can take or what kinds of food a family can take, therefore the same mentality carries over into the deliveries that the market makes. The Foundation has also set up a hotline or phone line for the families. IPS families are able to call the number and request for essential items to be delivered to them. They are able to ask certain amounts of goods, similar to what it would typically be like in the Happy Happy Market. 

The Foundation has also taken something that school does every Tuesday and turned it into an item that is delivered to the kids’ houses. “Taco Tuesday” is teachers, staff, foundation workers, and their families delivering prepared taco meals to the IPS kids every other Tuesday. 

A volunteer, the daughter of a teacher, makes her way to the front porch to drop off a Taco Tuesday meal. Each IPS family gets a meal, no matter what their economic situation is, so no family or student is left out of the tacos. Photo courtesy of Arianna Kaser

Many sport their “We Are Family” t-shirts while delivering and are met by kids who are waiting for their tacos.

Another project that the Foundation has continued to work on, despite the virus, is the I Promise Village. The announcement of the village, twenty units of transitional housing that will be open to the IPS families, was made in late February. The pandemic has not stopped or shut down the project, so it is still on track to begin opening its doors to the families towards the beginning of August of the upcoming school year.

Before COVID-19 shut down the school district, one of the more prominent issues for the school was the housing situation that some of the students were in. The LeBron James Family Foundation saw that students were coming in tired, mentally and physically, mostly because they did not have a place to call home. The Foundation started to put together a project that would provide units of transitional housing to the IPS families in need. 

Housing issues have not stopped like the rest of the country, in fact they are increasing for some of the IPS families. A few students are encountering a lack of housing or are riding out the Stay At Home order in an unsafe environment. 

“One of our students, the mom, reached out because there was a shoot-out in front of their home the other week,” said McGee. “As of now, they are in the process of moving. One week later.”

A mom to an IPS student called the Family Resource Center hotline after realizing that the house that her family was staying in was not safe. The family experienced a shoot out that took place in front of their home. A similar scene also happened during the previous summer. Issues from the streets kept occurring near their house, so the mother made the decision to move. It was no longer safe for her kids to be in an area where serious drama took place. 

A week later, through the help of the Family Resource Center, the IPS family was able to move into a different house that was on the other side of Akron.

The I Promise School has been working towards taking the ideas that the school holds and projecting them through online learning. Care packages that hold essential items, prepared meals, and the continuation of the construction of the I Promise Village are a few of the relief programs that are backed by both the school and the Foundation.

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