“Milton is a small town, but this community has big hearts,” said Milton School District 4K-6 social worker Sherry Rautenberg.

Even before the pandemic, she said the school district got calls from community members wondering how they could help students and families in need.

The Milton School District last week announced an app to help community members see ways they can help.

“The Purposity app is a way for us to confidentially post needs on behalf of students and families and for the community to respond to those specific needs,” Rautenberg said.

The app is available through the App Store and Google Play. Once the app is installed, community members can follow “School District of Milton” to see where help is needed.

If a student needs new shoes, for example, school social workers can make the community aware of the need through the app. A community member can then “claim” the request and drop off shoes with the school social worker.

The school district is in a process for families to request needed items on the app anonymously, Rautenberg said. In the meantime, families can reach out to Rautenberg at (608) 868-9274 or rautenbergs@milton.k12.wi.us or Verlene Orr at (608) 868-9561 or orrv@milton.k12.wi.us.

“Unless a family verbally shares with their child’s teacher, principal or student service staff that they, for example, can’t afford a winter jacket, we may not know that assistance is needed,” she said. “With this app, we will have a confidential way for families to reach out to us if assistance is needed.”

In many communities, even Milton, she said there may be that perception that everyone is doing well and no one is having any real struggles.

“Unfortunately, that is not the reality,” she said. “Sometimes that perception can put even more stress and pressure on families that are living in poverty or even paycheck to paycheck. It may keep them from reaching out for help because they don’t want their children to stand out from their peers.”

Social workers in the Milton School District have identified 45 students in the district that are or were at one time during this school year in a homeless situation. The number is up from previous years, Rautenberg said.

“Initially when the pandemic began, we were hearing families that lost their jobs or had a reduction in income due to the pandemic,” she said. “There were also families that had to quit their jobs in order to stay home with their young children during virtual instruction. This past year has put a lot of additional stress on everyone.”

When stimulus money began to be released, she said, “we had community members stepping forward staying they wanted to donate their stimulus money to students and families in need.”

At about that time, Rautenberg suggested the district use Purposity to match donors with specific needs.

Purposity is an app used by many school districts and non-profit organizations nationally with a vision to inspire everyone to live generously by connecting people to doing good in the same way Facebook connects friends and Google connects users to information.

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