(L-R, RPA teacher Hector West, teacher Sandy Cloud and RPA Executive Director Jon Bullock | Photo courtesy of Redmond Proficiency Academy)
When schools across Central Oregon closed almost overnight due to the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March 2020, Redmond Proficiency Academy (RPA) found themselves with empty buildings and spaces not being utilized. While dedicated and innovative staff pivoted to educating RPA students remotely, the charter school realized those empty spaces could be put to use serving a community that was experiencing growing economic hardship.
That’s when RPA staff created the Redmond Cares program.
“Our awesome staff was moved to find a way in which to help our community, and we established Redmond Cares as a way to support the community we love during a time of need,” said RPA Executive Director Jon Bullock. “None of this would have been possible without our dedicated staff and without the help of some incredible community volunteers. We had these buildings sitting empty, we were missing our students and we realized we could use our facilities to continue serving our community even during distance learning.”
Since April 2020, the Redmond Cares program has served families across Central Oregon by providing boxes of food, cleaning supplies and other necessary household supplies. The food and resource boxes were packaged and housed in RPA buildings with RPA staff, students and community members volunteering their time to assemble and distribute them. Volunteers worked through the summer and spent weekends ensuring that needs within the community were met.
In just nine months, the Redmond Cares program provided over 1,000 food and resource boxes to families in need, serving 28,000 meals to 4,400 individuals.
“Without the hard work and dedication of staff, students and community members, Redmond Cares would not have been nearly as successful or sustained for this long,” Bullock said. “I’m proud of the efforts put in by this team to help out the community during these difficult times.”
Local businesses and community members gave generously to Redmond Cares, too. Community partners like Safeway gave $10,000, First Interstate Bank gave $1,500, Umpqua Bank gave $500 and packed boxes for an entire month, Windermere Real Estate gave $1,000 and packed boxes, McDonalds supplied meal gift cards and Estele NB donated $5,000 to the program. A GoFundMe account raised an additional $11,000 in individual donations to help purchase food and essential supplies for families. In total, over $32,500 was raised since Redmond Cares began in April.
With some in-person instruction resuming soon, RPA teachers and staff are transitioning the Redmond Cares program to a Weekend Backpack Program, which will provide RPA students in need of support with backpacks full of food each weekend.
“It has been an honor to serve the community through the Redmond Cares program these past nine months,” said Bullock. “I’m confident our RPA team will continue to seek ways to give back to our neighbors in need long after COVID-19 is behind us.”
While Redmond Cares will wrap up in early January in order for RPA to restructure for the return of students, the program will do a final round of deliveries of resource boxes on Friday, January 8.
Central Oregon community members in need of food and resource support are encouraged to reach out to the following partners for assistance: