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PE’s Kids aims to help students

A nonprofit organization getting started in the area has a goal of offering targeted financial assistance to schoolchildren in Prince Edward County.

The organization is called PE’s Kids. Its founder, George Bagby, was inspired to create it after learning about a group based out of Mount Vernon called Alice’s Kids.

He noted that the brother and sister who formed Alice’s Kids, Ron Fitzsimmons and Laura Fitzsimmons Peters, grew up in a one-parent household without much money.

They understood the physical suffering that comes when a house has no heat and there is no food in the refrigerator, the Alice’s Kids website states. They also understood feeling ashamed of wearing the same tattered sweater to school five days in a row, or having to tell their teacher they could not afford the field trip fee. They understood the concept of skipping school altogether because of not being able to afford deodorant and wanting to avoid being the subject of snickering as they walked down the halls.

Their mother, Alice, did what she could to save them from these situations, though.

“When their mother had time from her usual work, she would take on a house cleaning job, and when she got money paid for the house cleaning job, she would buy something small but meaningful for the kids,” Bagby said. “So her children named their organization for their mother.”

“All we’re trying to do is set up a small version of what they’re doing — for Prince Edward,” Bagby said.

He noted that PE’s Kids is just becoming active now, and he explained how the organization works.

“We have a group of people, two at each of the three public schools, who are called spotters, and when a teacher sees a kid who needs something — of course with the pandemic, they don’t see kids a lot anymore — but when they know of somebody who needs help with something that is small and a one-time need, then they can get in touch with one of those spotters who will get in touch with us,” he said.

A PE’s Kids press release stated the organization’s average grant will be $100.

The release noted small, one-time needs could include payment for soccer cleats, camp fees, music lessons, field trips, prom tickets, clothes and other items. Children raising money for something — such as a band trip — can get a donation, but only after raising a portion of the money first, according to PE’s Kids guidelines.

The organization will not pay for items such as food, medical care or group supplies, the release stated.

Board members will not meet nor know the identity of the children helped.

The release added that parents of the child receiving funds will not receive a check. Instead, a check will be written to the appropriate store or a gift card will be sent to the spotter. But the parent will be allowed to do the shopping for the item.

“So the parent has the pleasure of taking the kid to the store to buy something,” Bagby said in the release.

A longtime educator and retired Hampden-Sydney College professor, Bagby organized and recruited the seven-member board of directors for PE’s Kids made up of retirees and community-minded volunteers, the release stated.

Bagby, who is chairman of the PE’s Kids board, said that so far, the organization has derived the money it will use to help schoolchildren from personal contributions.

“We’ve raised a total of about $3,000, and it’s all been from contributions, either by board members or by friends of board members or people who know board members and think it’s a good idea,” he said.

He indicated that the number of children PE’s Kids will help each year is based in part on the number of requests the organization receives.

There is also an organizational goal of eventually expanding to help children in Buckingham County and Cumberland County schools, but it is unknown how quickly that will happen.

“I don’t think we have any kind of timetable on that,” Bagby said. “It’s a long-term ambition, and it obviously depends on how much contact we have with kids who need help and how much money we can raise.”