This year, when offering huge appreciation around the Thanksgiving table for the unsung school teaching heroes, you may want to include the Carpinteria Education Foundation (CEF). 

Not a group to let a pandemic stand in its way, the volunteer nonprofit continues to enrich the learning life of all Carpinteria Unified School District students. Since the beginning of school closures due to Covid-19, CEF has donated $50,000 for the purchase of Chromebooks and hotspots, has facilitated low-cost, high-speed internet for some district families and has contributed $10,000 toward the purchase of individual playground kits for all elementary school students. 

“With elementary students now in the hybrid model and grades six through 12 still learning remotely, connectivity is absolutely essential,” said Casey Balch, CEF president. “We have committed to providing high speed internet through the end of summer to some 100 families in need.” 

Specifically, CEF has committed to paying the Cox Connect2Compete internet fee through August 2021, at which time the program will be re-evaluated based on current circumstances, such as the pandemic and school closures. 

“We are overwhelmed with the generosity of CEF and community donors for our students and schools as we all work hard to provide a safe return to in person instruction,” said Diana Rigby, CUSD superintendent.

Westerlay Orchids donated $23,819 to CEF to fund the initiative after pledging 100 percent of its retail shop proceeds from Aug. 31 through Sept. 5. This is the fourth year in a row Westerlay Orchids has donated showroom proceeds to CEF. Last year, the Via Real business donated more than $18,000. 

Toine Overgaag, president and founder of the family-owned Westerlay Orchids, said, “This community’s success is our success. We both grow and thrive when we work together, and CEF is doing a great deal to ensure that Carpinteria’s next generation gets the support and resources they need during this extremely tough time.” 

CEF is also working to narrow the digital divide among district students together with Partners in Education’s Computers for Families program, which will do personalized outreach and help families apply for the Cox program that CEF will underwrite. Partners in Education’s Computers for Families program is administered by the Santa Barbara County Office of Education and works with businesses, individuals, government and foundations for the betterment of students. 

During the Covid-19 period alone, Computers for Families refurbished and distributed more than 760 computers to area homes, reported Erika Terrazas, development associate with the organization. Additionally, more than 1,500 phone calls have provided technical support to get learners connected to the Internet. 

Not overlooking everyone’s favorite subject, recess, CEF has earmarked $10,000 to offset the cost of individualized recess kits, said Balch. While many recess activities are suspended, these kits aim to provide each student with some personal items to use during recess. Each kit will have a jump rope, playground ball and sidewalk chalk to help keep pupils from being bored during recess and lunch. Due to Covid-19, students are not allowed to share equipment or use the playground together, for a game of tetherball for example. The kits are funded from CEF’S Carp-a-Cabana annual event. 

“Students of the district are directly benefiting from Westerlay’s support and the support of so many community members and partners. This is another clear example that Carpinteria cares and comes together to ensure that no student is left behind,” summed up Balch. 

For more information, visit carpcares.org. 

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