Joanne Pike, principal at Copper Basin K-8, didn’t hesitate to acknowledge the sacrifices made by volunteers for Project Bridge at an April 5 luncheon held in their honor at the Florence Unified School District office’s auditorium.
“I’m thrilled to be in a room filled with giving and compassionate people,” Pike said. “When we have tough economic times in school, we tend to take care of ourselves. You have reached out into the community, and as a principal and a representative of my peers, I thank you for that.”
Following entertainment provided by the Florence High Jazz Band and a box lunch prepared by the FUSD Culinary Arts students, Pike spoke about the difference Project Bridge has made just for the students at her school.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called Tonya (Thompson, executive program director of Project Bridge) and she’ll say, ‘what do you need?’” Pike said. “For example, I just found out I have a family that doesn’t have water – they’re taking their showers at a neighbor’’s house. Tonya says, ‘I’ll fill out the paperwork and take care of it,’ and she does.’
“In the Copper Basin area, I have a lot of foster care children,” she continued. “They often arrive with nothing more than the clothes on their back. They have no school supplies, no backpacks. When you hear in the (Project Bridge) video that kids are made fun of because their shoes are repaired with duct tape ... yes, it’s true. I deal with that on a daily basis and I pick up the phone to call Tonya.”
Pike noted, “There are kids that the only meals they get every day is the breakfast and lunch at school, and Project Bridge helps with that.
“And it’s not just the students. I’ve had teachers who needed assistance. It’s do we pay rent, or do we eat?’”
Acknowledging the work of the volunteers who organize and gather donations, Pike said their efforts free up Thompson to perform counseling duties. “And I need that service at my school,” Pike said. “And if you didn’t do what you do, she wouldn’t be able to reach the needs of those students.”
One of the reasons, Pike said, she feels fortunate is that “I’m the one who gets to see the tears of joy that come from the parents, and the children, because of what you do. I consider all of you to be models for our community.
“Many people who are assisted by Project Bridge come back later, when they’re on their feet, and want to give something back because they’re so grateful. That’s what it’s all about — it comes back.
“Please continue to do what you do. My students need you, and I need you.”
Volunteers receiving recognition included Project Bridge Board President Dana Hawman, Betty Wheeler, Chris Burkhart, Norleen Tchida, Sharon Schmidt, Sharon Wineman, Donna Shaft, Pat Stemple, Phyllis Anderson, Betty Pimentel, Jack Wineman, Jack Dale, Jerry Smith, Barbara Quackenbush, Jenene Smith and Janet Dale.
Project Bridge is a nonprofit organization that exists to “bridge the gap” in times of family economic crisis, so that academic opportunity continue, unimpeded, for all children, despite environmental challenges. It offers assistance for children with banks for clothing, shoes and food, along with emergency financial aid and holiday sponsorships.
For information about volunteering or to make a donation, call Project Bridge at (520) 868-7138 or email ProjectBridgeInc@yahoo.com.