Large Group of Children CelebratingCarrie Busey Elementary in Champaign is like many Illinois schools, with about half of the student population classified as low-income. PTA volunteer Heather Schultz knew there were unmet needs at the school, but like many parents she didn’t know what she could do to help. A conversation with a relative from another state about a program at their school changed that.

The program is called Helping Hands at Carrie Busey. Heather worked with the school’s social worker to develop the idea, and then signed up parents to join a mailing list at the beginning of the school year. When the school social worker learns of a student or family in need, she passes the request on to Schultz, who sends it out to the e-mail list. Those interested in helping to meet the need respond directly to Schultz, who then coordinates getting the requested item to the social worker. The process remains anonymous on both ends, as those helping don’t know the family or student in need and the social worker doesn’t know who is lending the assistance.

Requests for help have included school supplies, transportation to or from school events, clothing, winter coats, and on one occasion paying a power bill to avoid a family having their gas and electricity shut off. Families are eager to help, says Schultz, and the program is simple to run since only an e-mail list is needed. Many parents report that responses to help are so fast that by the time they see the e-mail requesting an item, it has already been answered.

If you would like to find out more about Carrie Busey PTA’s Helping Hands program or how to establish one at your school, Heather Schultz has graciously volunteered for people to contact her at