McCandless residents give $5,000 to North Allegheny students in need
Two McCandless residents have donated $5,000 to the North Allegheny School District to launch a new resource for students classified as homeless or who face significant financial challenges, the district announced.
The gift from Paul Heckman and Marcia Caliendo will be used to fund the Helping Pantry, a new program set to launch at the start of the 2019-20 school year to provide some students with personal grooming products, clothing and other items. The donation was made in honor of Caliendo’s late parents, Fay P. and Raymond J. Caliendo Sr.
“As North Allegheny’s student population continues to increase, so does the number of homeless students,” said Abigayle Tobia, executive director of the North Allegheny Foundation, which is partnering with the district to create the Helping Pantry.
Tobia noted that during the 2018-19 school year, 18 North Allegheny students were classified as homeless. With nearly 8,500 students, North Allegheny is the largest school district in Allegheny County after Pittsburgh Public Schools.
“While some of these students reside with friends or family, some students are forced to live in local shelters,” she said.
The Foundation assists needy students through its Angel Fund, which helps cover the cost of testing fees, uniforms for vocational programs, Summer Academy tuition and field trips.
Tobia said the need to create the Helping Pantry became evident after learning how district employees were responding to students facing financial difficulties.
“School counselors and teachers are the first to realize when a student needs assistance with personal grooming, school supplies or winter clothes,” she said. “They would often quietly secure these items for the students in their class. During the past school year, it became clear that students would be better supported by a constant supply of basic necessities that are easily accessible.”
Items available from the pantry include socks, backpacks, snacks, winter coats, gloves, undergarments, feminine hygiene products and school supplies.
Tobia said it’s often in the best interest of students who become homeless or must temporarily live outside the district’s borders to not have their education interrupted.
“During these difficult times, children are best served with continuity in their school setting and working with the staff which they already have established relationships,” she said. “The district’s staff and administrators work to connect these families with community organizations and state agencies that provide additional support services.”
Donations to support the Angel Fund and the Helping Pantry can be made online.
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is a federal law which governs how homeless children and youths are supported. It is most often in the best interest of the student to continue to attend school in their school of origin, even if their homeless situation has them residing outside of the district’s borders. North Allegheny believes that during these difficult times, children are best served with continuity in their school setting and working with the staff which they already have established relationships. The District’s staff and administrators work to connect these families with community organizations and state agencies that provide additional support services.
Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368, [email protected] or via Twitter .