Special to Iredell Free News

Union Grove Elementary School bookkeeper Callie Ireland has always been an advocate for the school’s neediest students. 

Ireland works hard to make sure these students are able to attend field trips, have clothes to wear and food to eat, according to Principal Kelley James. “She has secured Christmas for many of our students and has reached out to community partners and friends to sponsor children throughout the years,” James added.

About a month ago, Ireland received an email from an educational company called Edmentum. The email stated that the company was eager to assist with technology licenses for students who needed online learning opportunities.

On a whim, Ireland decided to send a reply, which said “Thanks, but no thanks.” She explained that “while we appreciate the offer to assist students with technology, right now our focus is on the whole child.” She shared that her students’ needs are beyond educational — “they are about the basic needs of the children … primarily hunger.”

The team at Edmentum was touched by Callie’s email and went to work. The company and its foundation, We Can Learn, soon raised $4,200 to support families at Union Grove Elementary.

“We’ve decided to use these funds to feed and assist our community,” James said. “We have identified 30 Union Grove Elementary families that have been the hardest hit by the stay-at-home orders.”

The staff worked with local businesses and will distribute the following to these 30 families:
● $40 meal gift from Farmer’s Kitchen (a locally owned restaurant);
● $20 gift certificate from Howard’s Family Farm (locally owned family farm with fresh produce);
● $30 gas gift card; and
● $50 gift card from Food Lion

Jamie Quinn, Edmentum’s partnership coordinator for North Carolina, said the company was happy to help.

“As an “Educator First” company, we realize that all of the staff are difference makers in these situations,” Quinn explained. “Though Mrs. Ireland is but one of the all-star employees at Union Grove Elementary, she had enough passion to organize a movement! This just goes to show how important every effort really is.

“Even as a company that provides personalized learning and digital content to K-12 students across the globe, we know that currently students’ needs are more than just educational. We are honored to have a chance to help all students across North Carolina and beyond but especially excited to get to be a part of helping Union Grove Elementary.”

We Can Learn Chairwoman Michelle Geddes was excited to be part of this effort.

“We Can Learn’s mission is focused on helping make a meaningful impact in education through initiatives like this. I am so proud that Edmentum’s foundation could help support the Union Grove community and get critical resources to families in need.”

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