DPS teacher raises money for Ferguson students

Aug. 20, 2014 @ 06:14 PM

A Mangum Elementary School teacher has raised nearly $130,000 – and counting -- for the St. Louis Area Foodbank to help feed children in Ferguson, Missouri.
Schools in Ferguson did not open as scheduled Aug. 14 because of the ongoing civil unrest that began when a police officer shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
Julianna Mendelsohn, a fifth-grade teacher at Mangum, had set a goal to raise $80,000 when she started the crowdfunding campaign “Feed the Students of Ferguson” on Aug. 14.
“It’s just been an incredible experience and it’s still going,” Mendelsohn said.
She got the idea last week while following the events in Ferguson on Twitter.
“I saw a picture of two young kids holding signs that said ‘Please don’t shoot,’” Mendelsohn said. “It broke my heart and as a teacher you start thinking that we’re going back to school soon and whether they’ve gone back to school.”
So, Mendelsohn starting asking questions, again, via Twitter and learned that the school district in Ferguson had postponed to scheduled Aug. 14 start of school.
She then began to worry whether students in Ferguson, a town where the poverty rate is nearly double that of the Missouri average and where students rely heavily on school lunches, were getting proper meals during the delayed opening of schools.
“As a teacher, it’s something we see every day,” Mendelsohn said.  “We realize how crucial school breakfast and lunches are to children in this country.”
Within the first three hours of launching the campaign on Fundly, a crowdfunding site that is used to quickly raise money online, Mendelsohn said $20,000 had been donated.
The fundraising effort got the attention of talk show host and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres and pop star Trey Songz, who donated $10,000 to the cause.
“He donated $10,000 himself and called on his fans to donate,” Mendelsohn said.
According to published reports, the Ferguson-Florissant School District, which enrolls more than 11,000 students, plans to begin its delayed-school year Monday, the same day as Durham Public Schools begins its traditional school year.
Mendelsohn said officials with the St. Louis Area Foodbank told her that the money collected to date would likely help fund their operation for a year.
She said officials also help programs that assist “kids in other areas.”
Foodbank officials acknowledged Mendelsohn’s efforts on the organization’s website.
“The outpouring of support from across the country has been overwhelming,” officials wrote. “The funds donated through the “Feed the Students of Ferguson” campaign have been earmarked for the Ferguson community, where children in need will continue to struggle with hunger long after the news cameras leave.”
Mendelsohn said she is thrilled to have been able to play a role in ensuring that students in Ferguson are adequately fed during such a tumultuous time, and beyond.
“I feel so blessed to have been the one to push the first domino over,” Mendelsohn said.