When Marcia Wall saw a need 24 years ago, she decided to make an effort to meet it. At the time, she was a counselor at Helena Middle School and noticed there were some kids in school who weren’t participating in gym class because they didn’t have any shoes, they didn’t go on field trips because their parents couldn’t afford it and they wore the same clothes day after day because that was all they had.
Wall thought back to her own childhood, growing up poor with a single mom and two sisters in eastern Montana. She knew what it was like not to have much. But she also thought of her grandmother, who gave her the encouragement and support to move beyond her poverty and go to college and find success.
With her grandmother in mind, Wall set out to meet the needs of the kids she saw struggling. She started the Angel Fund with the hope that she and other volunteers could be an angel to kids in need around Helena.
The fund started small under the umbrella of the Helena School District. She initially solicited money from friends — just $20 donations. She used the money to buy clothes and school supplies. But the need outpaced her donations every year and so she kept expanding her reach. Now, 24 years later, the Angel Fund is its own nonprofit foundation and has a budget of $130,000. They help pay for school clothes for 800 students in Helena and surrounding communities each year.
“Every person needs someone who actually believes in them,” Wall said.
The students served are low-income students within the district and must be on the free and reduced lunch program, she said.
The Angel Fund also has at least one volunteer coordinator in every school it reaches, a total of 25 coordinators in all. The coordinators help identify kids who may need a little help, either some shoes or clothes, and then work with Wall to meet their needs.
In addition to helping qualifying kids by school clothes, the Angel Fund also does an annual school supplies drive called Stuff the Bus. This event has businesses and churches around town collecting school supplies, which get collected into one bus. Then on Aug. 24 volunteers from schools around the area will come to the gym behind Bryant School and take items they need for the kids in their schools. The idea is to collect school supplies for students who can’t afford them.
And though the outpouring of support from the Helena community is great, the school supplies are always scooped up and readily distributed.
“We never have enough markers, we never have enough colored pencils,” Wall said. “And paper, paper, paper — glue sticks, scissors, Kleenex and backpacks.”
Another program the Angel Fund is involved in is the Running for Montana’s Future race, which is sponsored by the Montana Attorney General’s office and the Helena Police Department. This year’s race is Aug. 17 at 10 a.m. at Memorial Park. The race is a venue to raise money to buy shoes for kids around the Helena School District and surrounding areas. The shoes are distributed by school resource officers to students in need.
Good shoes not only help with self esteem, but promote healthy physical activity, Wall said.
We want to thank Wall and the Angel Fund for the work they do. They are often the behind-the-scenes volunteers who quietly step in when they see a need. It’s a Helena solution to a Helena problem and the kids they help with our donations are the kids who are part of the fabric of our great community.
For many of us good shoes, nice clothes and necessary school supplies seem like a regular part of life, but the fact is that for many in our community, those things are a luxury and the Angel Fund is there to help.
For more information and to find out how to donate or help, go online to www.angelfundhelena.org.