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Monday
November 23rd, 2020

kcsl logoROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

 

For people and businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the disappearance of much of the economy.

This has been the case for most non-profit agencies as well, as it is for Kansas Children’s Service League, but the pandemic does not seem to be hitting that agency as hard as it has others.

KCSL Grant Developer Cecilia Douglass said in Liberal itself, fundraising efforts have been slow.

“We’ve really tried to amp things up across the state,” she said. “Our communications department in Wichita has been working on campaigns tied into the Giving Tuesday.”

Douglass said KCSL pushed the one-day campaign this week to raise some funds to help with program expenses across the state.

“The Red Stocking Breakfast is our focus right now because the funds we raise through that will end up helping next year when we are trying to recover from the crisis,” she said.

Governor Laura Kelly announced her plan to begin opening Kansas back up from the pandemic, and Douglass said the plan going forward for KCSL is a simple one.

“We’re taking it one day at a time,” she said. “We are hoping to reopen by May 26. We’re going to have stuff back in the office on the 18th, and we will start reopening, but I do not think we are going to be able to open our classrooms until the fall unless we’re able to secure a grant for the summer program.”

Programming, Douglass said, will continue to be delivered via virtual visits or phone calls.

“We’ll continue providing activities with porch dropoffs,” she said. “Our mental health staff has been on fire getting resources out to staff not just for parents but also for themselves in coping with stress and anxiety, all of these things we know we’re seeing more and more of because of the isolation and the pandemic and the response in each community.”

Douglass said the summer programming grant is due May 15, and she is unsure of KCSL’s chances of getting the grant.

“We honestly do not know what our chances look like because this is emergency funding. It’s not something we’ve applied for before,” she said. “I hope and pray they see the benefits of the Head Start program and bringing those kids, transitioning into kindergarten, to prepare them for kindergarten.”

Douglass said a level of support for kids in Southwest Kansas has to be available.

“We’re hopeful through all of this, we will be approved, but right now, it’s just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping it’s approved,” she said. “If awarded, this would provide services to children going into kindergarten in August, and it would also allow us to serve children on an individualized education plan.”

Douglass said overall, the coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for KCSL.

“Locally, our staff members are missing our kids,” she said. “I think there is a lot of hurt we’re going to feel for a while even after we reconvene and start getting back to normal. We’ve noticed parents are struggling to find basic cleaning supplies. We’re trying to find ways to continue providing that to our parents moving forward.”

Douglass said KCSL is likewise looking for ways to provide food for families who do not have transportation to get to a food bank or pick up a free meal.

“We are going to continue feeling the effects of this pandemic long after we return, and when you look at KCSL as a statewide agency, it has affected our programs across the entire state,” she said. “Our Healthy Families has had to adapt to delivering services virtually. Adoption Services has also had to adapt.”

Douglass said it has been a stressful time for KCSL, but in the same retrospect, teachers and staff members across the state have come together and made the impossible possible, delivering preschool services to children virtually and dropping off activity packets. 

“This is new, and it’s just been refreshing and wonderful seeing our staff come together to rally for our parents and our children knowing they need our support now more than ever,” she said.

Douglass had high praise for her staff and assistant directors for their work during the pandemic.

“They have been rock stars,” she said. “They have adapted to many new platforms of technology. They’ve become masters at SchoolTube and uploading educational videos for their parents and their students. I’ve been amazed at the resources we’ve been providing families to help them cope with stress. It really is inspiring to see all of these staff members adjusting their daily roles to fill the needs of their families as best they can amid pandemic.”

Douglass said getting things done in a different way is an adjustment to say the least, but both parents and agency officials seem to be handling the adjustment.

“We have had reports of it going very well,” she said. “I think when parents get comfortable with the new platforms of technology such as Zoom and Google and SchoolTube, there’s increased participation. We’re getting more parents engaged with some of these activities just because it’s conveniently delivered. A plus through all of this is knowing the parent engagement is continuing to increase because technology makes life convenient.”

Like many others, Douglass is looking forward to returning to a world without the presence of COVID-19.

“I am very optimistic,” she said. “I think this pandemic has led us to a place where we can start using technology for its intended purpose, and especially in rural Kansas where we’re all spread out, services like Internet and phone are hard to come by, but I think we are able to identify our needs a little better.”

Moving forward, Douglass said she believes KCSL will be able to utilize technology in a way that engages more people.

“I do feel optimistic at the end of the day that through all of the tragedy and anxiety and stress this has brought, our communities will come together and adapt our services using the methods we’re using currently into how we plan on delivering services once we reach the end,” she said.

Douglass said the current pandemic has taught her and others much in the way business at an agency such as KCSL can be done.

“I think having many levels of technology at our disposal or many different platforms of technology at our disposal will only help us with our reach of services,” she said. “I know in our area, traveling for meetings or to get services rendered, it’s difficult.”

Douglass said she is hopeful too that doctors and other professionals will look at the pandemic as an opportunity to adjust how they do business.

“They can maybe start offering a different level of service for our parents,” she said. “Our parents can stay on top of their child’s health expectations, their child’s medical needs and dental needs. I think this has just given us a very unique opportunity to accommodate a much broader audience than before.”

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