Hometown Heroes: Care to Learn

By Melanie Chapman | mchapman@kolr10.com

Published 09/04 2013 07:01PM

Updated 09/05 2013 01:50PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- For thousands of kids in the Ozarks, school isn't just a place for learning -- it's a shelter.

This week's hometown heroes aren't just one person, but an organization set up to help children.

Care to Learn helps kids living in poverty stay focused on learning. It was founded by Springfield businessman and philanthropist Doug Pitt.

Pitt started the project to help students in need so they wouldn't have to go to school hungry or embarrassed about their clothes, or lack thereof.

"Care to Learn has been a fantastic partner with us for the school district," says Jean Grabeel, Coordinator of Health Services for Springfield Public Schools. "They are here to help, so anything in the area of health, hunger, and hygiene, they are there to help support our kids."

Over the years, Grabeel has seen the request for help from Care to Learn grow. This year, the need for clothing is huge.

"Vouchers for 230 students already since school began. If you compare that to last year, we served 23 students through Care to Learn with 27 vouchers given out."

Hundreds of kids have been helped through the organization. It all started in 2008 with Pitt's idea and funding from businessman Jim Morris and from Doug's brother Brad, as well as Angelina Jolie. The founders give $3 for every dollar contributed.

"We take a very close look at what our kids need when they start school and what are the barriers to learning, because we are an educational system and that's what we want to focus education," adds Grabeel. "But when they are homeless and when they are hungry, when they have oral pain because of dental care, when they don't have appropriate clothing or shelter, then all of those are barriers to learning and so we depend on our community partners to help us."

Grabeel is extremely grateful for organizations like Care to Learn. She has seen children get the help so desperately needed.

"It's amazing. I was over at the clothing bank for their opening and the kids’ faces -- marvelous. They were so happy to get clothing. It's like the best birthday gift ever or like Christmas for them."

And as Doug Pitt says, it allows a kid to be just that: a kid.

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