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Charity signals red alert for needy families

Every little amount counts: social services charity founder Gina Spence has launched her Back To School Campaign at Gibbons Children’s Department, as her daughter, Mychel Jones, and Paula Clarke, chief executive of Gibbons Company, look on (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The target for a back-to-school uniforms fundraiser has almost quadrupled because of the number of families left in dire straits by the economic havoc caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.Organisers of the Each One Reach One campaign said yesterday that they hoped to raise $75,000 before the end of the month — a massive increase on last year’s $20,000 goal.Gina Spence, the founder of the social services charity Gina Spence Productions, added that more than 200 children had been signed up for the campaign in less than a week.She said that the drive expected to help up to 700 pupils this year because the Covid-19 pandemic had left hundreds of families in need of financial help.Ms Spence added: “Some parents are completely out of work — others have had their hours reduced. We’ve gotten calls from people who have never needed help before, but due to the Covid situation they’re needing help today.”Ms Spence was speaking as she launched the eighth Each One Reach One campaign at Gibbons Company on Church Street. The back-to-school campaign raises cash for school supplies and uniforms for families who would struggle to equip their children for the school year.Ms Spence said that the campaign would focus on gift cards that families could use to buy “First Day Starter Kits” at Gibbons Company.She explained that the charity’s school uniform recycling programme, which donated used school uniforms to children signed up to the campaign, could not be held this year because of health concerns over the coronavirus and government regulations.Each starter kit will have school clothes, a backpack and other essentials for children of all ages. Families will be able to use the gift cards to buy the special kits at Gibbons Company.Daily kits will contain one uniform and will have a price range between $115 and $125.Weekly starter kits will have three uniforms and cost $200.Ms Spence said: “Every little amount counts — we know that it’s mandatory for children to go to school in uniform, so they don’t have the option of not wearing a uniform.”The Each One Reach One campaign raised $24,000 in 2019 after they set their highest fundraising target.Ms Spence said that many parents faced money problems because they had been laid off work during the pandemic and turned to the campaign for support.Ms Spence, a veteran fundraiser, added that the campaign had raised about $6,000 since its soft launch last Wednesday, but predicted much more would be needed and appealed to Bermudians and Bermuda residents to dig deep.Ms Spence said: “We don’t know the exact number of students we’ll have, but last Wednesday we had no one registered and now there are over 200 people registered.“If that’s any indication of the need and the amount of people that will be registering, we just want to prepare for whoever does register.”She added: “It could be $5, it could be $2 — we’re just asking the community to give what they can.”Paula Clarke, the chief executive of Gibbons Company, asked companies and members of the public to “be generous and donate to this very worthy cause”.She also challenged business owners to make personal donations rather than corporate ones. Ms Clarke said: “This goal is very achievable for anybody who wants to help those in need and less fortunate due to Covid or other circumstances.”Mychel Jones, the administrator for Gina Spence Productions, said that the personal information of applicants will be held “at the highest level of confidentiality”.She emphasised: “We do not share the names or contact information of our registered applicants with any other agency.”Ms Jones told families who might be reticent about approaching the charity: “Please know that we want to help you and there’s no shame here. We want to ensure that our students feel confident and excited to start school.”• Donations can be made online at www.ginaspenceproductions.com by the August 20 deadline. Families who want to sign up can complete the registration form at the same address. Parents can register up to four children and must complete registration by August 28. Contact Gina Spence Productions at 296-0016