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5 ways Neighborhood Bridges helps Eastern Shores students

Posted Thursday, September 8, 2022 8:00 am

Neighborhood Bridges is a nonprofit that facilitates direct local giving to students in need. Needs can be anything from a new pair of shoes, clothes, school fees, snacks, school supplies or an immediate grocery need for a student and their family.

Neighborhood Bridges is a nonprofit that facilitates direct local giving to students in need. Needs can be anything from a new pair of shoes, clothes, school fees, snacks, school supplies or an immediate grocery need for a student and their family.PHOTO PROVIDED

By Jessica Vaughn
Education Editor
[email protected]

A student resource officer (SRO) sees a child with worn out shoes. A first-grade teacher notices a number of students without a treat during snack time. A nurse takes note of students with torn backpacks. A principal hears from numerous teachers how certain students are lacking needed school supplies.
School employees see these scenarios every day. They have first-hand encounters with students in need. They know what the needs are for what students.
For years, the challenge has been filling those needs. A growing community organization, Neighborhood Bridges, seeks to bridge that gap.
"It's a balance," said Andy Burton, Neighborhood Bridges area director for Daphne schools. "Here are the school advocates, here are the community members. All we are is the bridge. We bridge the advocates with the community."
The program came to Fairhope in 2019 to serve schools in the feeder pattern. It expanded during the 2021 – 2022 school year to include schools in Daphne and Spanish Fort.

Neighborhood Bridges is 100% volunteer driven. The three area directors in the Eastern Shore area are Burton, Dena Pittman in the Spanish Fort area and Lori Terral in the Fairhope area.
Here are some key points about the program, and how to get involved.

1) It's direct local giving

Neighborhood Bridges is a nonprofit that facilitates direct local giving to students in need.
The process is simple. Advocates within participating schools will see a student in need. These advocates will post these needs to the Neighborhood Bridges website, where they will be shared to the community in hopes of finding someone who can fill the need.

"We engage advocates at the schools," Burton said. "School counselors, social workers, nurses, principals, SROs; these are advocates for their kids. We give them a platform, a website that they go to and they post the need, and once the need is posted it's broadcast to anyone who is subscribed to receive our email and it's put on Facebook."

2) There are multiple ways to give

Needs can be anything from a new pair of shoes, clothes, school fees, snacks, school supplies or an immediate grocery need for a student and their family. There are plenty of ways to stay informed on what's needed in local schools.
By signing up to the e-newsletter, you will be notified of new needs via email. Emails are sent once a day at 9 a.m., and only when a new need has been posted.
Needs can be viewed online at www.neighborhoodbridges.org on the Eastern Shore community page. You can also make a monetary donation on the website by clicking on the Donate icon. Donations can be one-time or monthly.

"Say we need school supplies for 65 students – that's a lot of school supplies that they're asking for," Burton said. "That's what we'd use the money for. If the need does not get filled as well as they feel it needs to be, then we have a little money in reserve where we can go and spend the money to fill the need."

3) Needs are updated as needed

Burton and her fellow area directors manage the site. When they receive a notification that someone has volunteered to fill the need, they close it as complete. When a need is posted for multiple items, like school supplies or snacks, the directors can edit the post as needed, removing items that have been received in abundance from the list.
"When you go to the website, you can view the need and see a button that says, 'I can help.' You click that button, and it takes you to a page that you can fill out the info asked for, including name, number and a message block," Burton said. "In that message block, you can give a description of what you'll be donating, like five packs of notebook paper or whatever you want to donate. The more specific you can be in there, the easier it is for us, especially with a need asking for multiple items, to keep up with what's getting donated."

4) It's anonymous

The name of the student in need is never made public, Burton said.
"The critical thing to me is that it's anonymous," she said. "We don't know who the child is, or who the family is who's needing help. It's only the school advocates who know. So, the need is delivered to the school, the school takes it from there, and nobody knows who it's for. It's such a simple concept."

5) It's expanding

"We take on areas by feeder pattern," Burton said. "So, the next feeder pattern we take on, whichever one that might be, we think the best thing is to get another area director from that area to oversee it."
Burton said the goal is to take on another feeder pattern by the end of the current school year or the beginning of the next school year. The ultimate goal is to have Neighborhood Bridges communities within every school in Baldwin County- public, city or private- by the end of the 2023 – 2024 school year.
"We're trying to get the word out," Burton said. "Even if Neighborhood Bridges isn't in a community currently, it will be. So as much as we can raise awareness about the program, the easier it's going to be for us down the road to expand into other municipalities."
To learn more about the organization, view needs or to make a donation, visit www.neighborhoodbridges.org and click on the Baldwin County – Eastern Shore community page.
"There's nothing that we can do without an advocate, and there's nothing we can do without the community who is hearing about the needs and filling them," Burton said. "Again, we're just the bridge."

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