It started in the fall of 2007 with Doug Pitt, the brother of actor Brad Pitt, who heard sobering statistics about poverty in his hometown of Springfield. 

Working together with several community leaders, Pitt was able to establish a fund to meet emergent needs of students in the areas of health, hunger and hygiene. Thus, in 2008, the Care to Learn organization was formed. 

“The Logan-Rogersville Chapter joined the organization a few years later,” said Angela Harrell, liaison for Care to Learn chapter in Rogersville. “The Care to Learn Chapter now has 35 chapters in Missouri that have made over one million impressions altogether.”

Care to Learn chapters operate on donations from the community to support students with emergent health, hunger and hygiene needs. Logan-Rogersville hunger needs are addressed through the Pawpak program. 

“We send backpacks of food home with elementary students every weekend and have food pantries at the middle school and high school,” said Harrell. 

Other needs met include helping obtain medical and dental care, as well as grocery and food vouchers, and, in one instance, helping with transportation for a child who required multiple surgeries that could only be performed in Kansas City, according to Harrell. 

“This is what makes my involvement in Care to Learn so rewarding, knowing that we are making a positive impact in the lives of students we love and care for,” said Harrell. “Logan-Rogersville is fortunate to have the support of superintendent, Dr. Shawn Randles, who has served on the advisory council and the fundraising committee since the beginning.”

The chapter’s main fundraiser for the past seven years has been the Ride to Provide cycling event, with cyclists from all over southwest Missouri. 

“This year a new fundraiser will take place in the spring,” said Harrell. “It will be a Family Fitness Fair.”

Fordland’s Care to Learn chapter liaison Becky Haynes  heard about the organization before she started her teaching career at Fordland R-III.

“I use to manage a vet hospital where the Pitts brought their dog, so I knew of Care to Learn before I began with the school,” said Haynes. “I was going to school to get my education degree because I had foster kids and needed a better schedule for the kiddos. As I started with my practicum here at Fordland and subbing while in school, I saw we had some things in place to help out our students, but wondered if Care to Learn would be a better option for us.”

Haynes attended a conference where Pitt was the speaker. At that time, she led a garden grant project through the Fordland Clinic. She asked him how a school district established a chapter. 

“Doug directed me to Morey Mechlin, who was the director at the time,” said Haynes. “She gave us some guidelines. Wendy Davis, Chuck Seely and I met with the superintendent at the time, and he wasn’t sold. He didn’t think a third party needed to be involved. It took us a year and a half to convince him, but we finally got our chapter.”

At the time, Haynes was student teaching and taking classes, but balancing that and other responsibilities kept her from pursuing the liaison position. Stacy Hart volunteered to serve as the liaison in 2012.

“Stacy did a great job,” said Haynes. “When she decided to step down after many years, the job went to our school nurse. We had a large nurse turnover the next two years, five of them, and the job was back up for bid. I had continued to volunteer throughout this time, and decided — well, God told me to — that it was time for me to do what I was supposed to do. Last year, Gaila Wester and I led the chapter. This year, Wester stepped down due to her schedule, and now they are just stuck with me.” 

Care to Learn’s mission statement is to provide immediate funding to meet emergent needs in the areas of health, hunger and hygiene so every student can be successful in school. According to Haynes, what that looks like at Fordland is weekend food bags. “Last year for up to 150 students,” said Haynes. “This year we have tied it to the free and reduced lunch program. There was some waste last year, so this year we are still gaining numbers. We should land at about 75 this year.” 

The Fordland chapter has clothing and hygiene closets at both the elementary and secondary school to immediately provide students with anything they might need throughout the day. 

“We give vouchers to Walmart if a student needs more items than we can provide from the closet,” said Haynes. “This can be used for food or clothing, whichever the family needs. We pay doctor bills, electric bills, eyeglasses, and just today I went to the gas station and set up an account for a student to get $20 in gas per week so he can finish his online classes here at school to graduate.”

In May, Fordland Care to Learn organizes a Truck and Bike Show to benefit the chapter. It also helps coordinate the Community Care Day event in September. The event includes a 5K run/walk, pancake breakfast, vendor fair, live auction and lunch. Proceeds from the the event benefit the Fordland Care to Learn chapter. This year’s event will take place Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Fordland City Park. 

For more information about the Care to Learn Chapter, go to www.caretolearn.org or visit the Fordland and Rogersville Care to Learn Facebook pages.

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