By Michelle Richarson
Special to the AFRO
2020 has been a year of epic highs and tremendous lows in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jobs were lost, the entire country seemed to shut down overnight, and every school district in the state of Maryland turned to virtual learning for the 2019-2020 school year.
Unemployment in the U.S. rose to 1.8 million, making it difficult for families to provide basic necessities for their loved ones including food, shelter and childcare.
As parents, teachers and students try to adjust to this “new normal,” community organizations such as TheBe.Org are doing their part to make this transition easier for residents of Baltimore City.
Founded in 2014, “TheBe.Org is a youth development non-profit that primarily serves the Baltimore region and our mission is to encourage and nurture youth to live above their socially- imposed limitations; to recognize their full potential and give them the skills and confidence to go after their dreams,” Tonee Lawson, founder of TheBe.Org told the AFRO.
TheBe.Org is hosting their yearly back to school drive but it looks a little different this year.
The drive is 100 percent virtual, but besides common school items like composition notebooks and pencils, the drive offers resources for parents and students to adjust to remote learning such as noise cancellation headphones, lap desks and learning blocks for younger students.
A “gratitude journal” is also provided that is filled with activities for both students and parents to utilize to “check-in” on their mental wellbeing, along with essential oils that promote focus and relaxation in a home environment.
“We usually try and do a back to school initiative and support as many students as we can with supplies and resources, but again because of COVID, we wanted to give students and parents some tools that will assist them in their virtual learning environment and just virtual learning in general,” Lawson stated.
TheBe.Org has hosted school drives since the organization was founded, but it has faced challenges this year due to COVID-19.
“It’s been a little hard because people get immediate satisfaction from purchasing the items and actually dropping them off or handing them over. So when you just shop online you don’t see your gift and you don’t get to physically give it to someone,” Lawson explained.
The drive, which is geared towards school students of all educational levels, is online at Amazon.com, where donors can purchase items and have them shipped directly to TheBe.Org’s address.
On top of the stress from the pandemic, the country is reeling from racial tensions stemming from police shootings of unarmed Black men and that can be a lot for school-aged children to digest.
Not only does TheBe.Org provide the community with physical essentials that are needed, but the non-profit also offers social and emotional support as well as family engagement for the community.
”2020 has really been hard on everyone. So we’ll do training for parents and we’ve had a couple of virtual workshops with our community partners around conversations about race and how to have those conversations with your children, ” said Lawson.
Items will continue to be accepted throughout the school year, and to donate to the back to school drive, visit www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2MOVSLM9LFU41?ref_=wl_share. For more about TheBe.Org, visit www.thebeorg.com.