Pittsburgh nonprofit helping families with access to food, transportation, bills

PITTSBURGH — The pandemic has put a real strain on families.

Parents are acting as teachers while trying to keep their children safe and fed.

One mother told Channel 11 that if it weren’t for the nonprofit Communities in Schools of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County helping her keep food on the table and getting her children supplies to learn via virtual schooling, she would have been lost.

“I’ve been locked in the house since like March,” said Amanda Poole of Clairton. “I didn’t have milk; I didn’t have bread. I didn’t have the means to get any.”

Poole is a mother of four school-age children. She said the pandemic created more stress than she is used to. She has health issues, so going out of the home to the store using public transportation was impossible. Her son’s teacher connected her with the nonprofit Communities in Schools of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. The group works with schools and families to make sure every child can succeed.

Bryan McCarthy has worked for Communities in Schools of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County as a site manager for the last 10 years. He said a lot of families don’t realize the resources out there to help them, and when there are issues at home, it impacts students.

“Often it’s having access to transportation, food, rent is coming due, the utilities are getting shut off, and sometimes parents just don’t know where to turn, what the resources are that are in their area already,” McCarthy said.

During the last school year, Communities in Schools served more than 7,900 students in 12 schools in our area.

“The need has increased,” McCarthy said. “At my school, we’re doing sort of a partial hybrid, some in person, some virtual. Access to technology has become a major issue. Access to transportation, there are a lot more food distributions, but can the families access them? Can they get there?”

Poole said the nonprofit has been a lifesaver.

“I have a son with special needs. You know, so for him, he has to see it and sometimes on paper it’s not interesting. They brought me a dry erase board, and dry erase markers. My son went from not wanting to do school to it’s like his favorite thing. (He’s) like just like look, ‘I could do my math and draw that out and big colors and stuff,’” Poole said.

Communities in Schools of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County takes self-referrals and currently is in a limited number of districts. The nonprofit has several other programs, including mentoring. Across all their programs, they’ve seen 100 percent of the students stay in school.

“I never knew people were here doing stuff like that, and especially in a time like this, when we’re all six feet apart,” Poole said.

If you would like to help Communities in Schools of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County help more students, you can donate to them. If you need help and are wondering if the nonprofit is in your child’s school, you can reach out by clicking here.