During her high school years, Kathie Barnett, learning and development manager for PPG’s aerospace business, spent her summers volunteering and assisting young people in Huntsville, Alabama facing challenges such as poverty at an organization that would later become the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Alabama.
Today, as PPG’s Huntsville community seeks to help their local neighbors facing food and resource insecurities during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Barnett reflected on earlier volunteer experiences to help those most in need.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created an emergency situation for many children and homeless individuals in the Huntsville community,” said Barnett. “As risks of hunger and homelessness evolve, the need to unite and support our neighbors is real and urgent.”
Partnering with the Boys & Girls Club
According to Barnett, when the PPG Foundation announced the availability of emerging needs relief grants, the Boys & Girls Club was among her first phone calls.
“Although the local Club is closed, their doors and hearts remain open to children in need of a meal, help with schoolwork or a connection to others,” said Barnett. “The hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic surface the need to share our PPG resources and ensure that whether it’s a meal or friend, our local children know they are supported.”
Serving meals and connecting with kids
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, many of the children supported by the Boys & Girls Club in Huntsville received daily meals from their schools. With remote learning in effect, the local Club responded quickly to provide meals and snacks. Approximately 300 children per day were served with support from the PPG Foundation grant. Located within proximity to the children they serve, the kids could easily walk to pick up their meals without relying on transportation systems averted by the virus response.
In addition to feeding children, the Boys & Girls Club recognized that many students and parents are struggling to adapt to online learning and the effects of social distancing.
Some students were completely disconnected without access to computers and internet. That’s when the Club stepped in with support from the PPG Foundation grant to mobilize moving “study centers.” Without a current need to transport students to and from school, school buses found a new use as mobile internet hubs and parked around neighborhoods to serve as remote internet hotspots.
"These kids need us now more than ever. With the growing numbers of families who are struggling with basic needs, our first priority is to make sure children have a meal they can count on every day,” said Felicia Eady, unit director, Seminole Boys and Girls Club. “They also need engagement and educational opportunities when virtual resources aren't available for many. That's why partnerships like those with PPG are so critical.”
Helping the homeless
In Huntsville, PPG’s emerging needs relief grants also supported three organizations providing critical resources to those facing homelessness.
Ian Poulton, global finance lead for PPG’s ePro Project, identified and connected the Family Services Center’s LIFT Housing program, located in Huntsville, Alabama with our emerging needs relief grant program.
According to Poulton, a regular LIFT volunteer, the program offers low-cost, income- based housing for homeless families with dependent children within the household, or those at imminent-risk of becoming homeless. The long-term goal is to help prepare families to move toward permanent housing by the end of the program.
The organization also provides transitional housing, financial empowerment and other case management support throughout the process.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, several individuals within the LIFT program found themselves unemployed and unable to cover their family living and housing expenses.
“Unfortunately, some LIFT program participants who were working are now facing adversity once again due to this crisis,” said Poulton. “We’re providing relief funding and other support in hopes of helping them avoid a significant setback.”
In addition to LIFT, the PPG Foundation made grants to First Stop and the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, organizations helping Huntsville’s homeless community by supplementing food resources and offering COVID-19 testing.