Fluvanna County rises to help those in need

By Madeline Otten

No one expected the pandemic to last this far into 2020. Hopes of quarantine ending and schools going back to in person learning are getting pushed back, and for some, unemployment benefits are coming to an end. While this time of uncertainty is challenging, more of Fluvanna County’s citizens are taking charge and continuing to show a benevolent side for those in need. With some added stressors and concerns growing during this time, community members have stepped up to take action and help those who are in need throughout the county.

Community member Mike Costanzo, expressed to the Lake Monticello and Fluvanna County community that he and his wife wanted to help those in need, however, childcare is not something they are able to do with work and taking care of their four month old.

“I put up a post saying we wanted to help those in need with meals,” said Costanzo. “If a family could not afford it, or simply did not have the time, we wanted to help out, especially with virtual learning.”

Costanzo received many responses from other community members wanting to help, and with the support from Julie Haislip-Barrett and Jen Yowell, FLUCOS Feed the Needs was created. As of Aug. 6, the private Facebook Group had 85 members, and now the number has grown to 110 members.

“We expect the needs of our community to be significant over the coming months and we need more volunteers,” said Costanzo. “We also need to get the word out to those who will need our help that our group exists.”

On Sept. 7, CBS 19 Charlottesville highlighted the group’s work, which helped spread the word to those who are not on Facebook, but watch the news.

Those who are a part of the group can personally message one of the three admins, Costanzo, Haislip-Barrett, or Yowel, who receive the requests for the meals from people in need and then get those requests out to the volunteers.

Another community member, Holly Canales, saw an opportunity to help the community by collecting items and connecting children with volunteer tutors. The motivation behind this was when she witnessed a family’s struggle within the community along with the school’s decision to teach remotely as well.

Canales feels that every child deserves to learn, and preferably it should be through human contact. Online teaching can be difficult for many families in the county with internet connectivity issues, single-parent households, or families where both parents work out of the home. In addition, many of the children also rely on school lunches, and while the school is allowing families to pick up food, it may not be feasible for parents/guardians with limited time.

“I am not debating whether or not the school’s decision to teach remotely is right or wrong,” said Canales. “I am simply urging the community to rise up and help these families that are not able to support their children’s education journey at home.”

Canales is collecting healthy foods, books for all ages, clothes, money to buy school supplies, and art supplies. Donations can be left at 364 Jefferson Drive, or those wishing to donate can contact Canales through Facebook, LinkedIn, email – holly.canales@gmail.com – or by phone: 703-895-5687.

So far, Canales has collected four boxes of clothing, more than 120 books, composition books, binders, folders, glue sticks and bottles of glue, sketch pads, pens and pencils, colored pencils, crayons, scissors, rulers and water bottles. She has distributed four boxes of clothes, compositions books, crayons, pencils and pen, books, and other art supplies. On top of distributing donations she and her husband are also tutoring four children as well as connecting a family with a tutor to help two elementary school students with reading.

“I was pleasantly surprised to find many people are willing to donate items,” said Canales. “It is nice to be a part of a community with a philanthropic spirit.”

Canales long-term goal is to start a non-profit called Elevate. Elevate’s goal will be to help families that are just above the income line to qualify for government program assistance. It is Christian-based and will provide families with healthy foods, clothes, and money, which will be delivered directly to them. Canales also has a plan for volunteers to mobilize to help around the home, attend court dates for moral support, and tutor children in the areas where they need the most help.

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