OLATHE, Kan. — Through the uncertainty caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a partnership between two Olathe departments is bringing families in the area much-needed support.
"Some families are struggling," Sarah Gilliland, a school nurse at Central Elementary School in Olathe, said. "They're saying they don't know how they're going to pay their electric bill or their water bill."
The Olathe Fire Department alongside volunteers with Olathe Public Schools are entering the fifth week of a student outreach program designed to offer resources and information to families underemployed or out of work during the pandemic.
"As a fire department we typically go, take care of somebody's problem and then we leave," Olathe firefighter Chris Curtis said. "Typically, that's on someone's worst day, whether it be a medical emergency, their house burned down or car wreck. This type of collaboration with the school district and the fire department, it kind of goes way beyond that."
The team of four estimates that they've contacted around 200 families during the program's short history. About 25% of the families contacted have applied for financial assistance.
Although the academic year comes to an end in the coming weeks, needs remain, so the group will keep working to make sure no family is left behind.
"This isn't going to go away and just stop whenever school is supposed to end next week," Curtis said. "This is going to be a continuing thing through the summer and into the fall."
But there's a commitment to helping those families.
"Whatever the kids need, we will make sure they end up getting in the fall or whenever we do end up going back to school," Gilliland said.
Olathe schools have a community resource list available on the district website.