Eau Claire (WQOW)- Teachers, school counselors and social workers are some of the first to realize when a child has a need that's not being met at home. That may be the easy part, at least when compared to finding a solution. Where do schools turn when they've run out of options, when a child needs dental care or a winter coat?
When all else has failed and children need quick help, that's when the Masonic Angel Fund steps in.
"The biggest need is always in the winter," says Cheryl Miller, a social worker in the Eau Claire school district. "The beginning of the fall and the winter, kids come into school and they just don't have warm clothes."
The Angel Fund responds by giving money and giftcards so counselors can take the kids shopping. Here's Bill Arnsdorf, treasurer of the Masonic Angel Fund, recalling what one counselor had told him after a shopping trip. "She said 'What would you think they went for?' I said, 'Toys?' No. The little girl said 'Oh! I can finally have underwear that fit!' And the boys came and said 'Look, look at these socks I got, he says now my toes won't stick out'. You know, I felt like crying." "You'd be surprised the kids that come to school without socks," added Cheryl. "It is just the basic stuff"
Masons, who belong to Lodge 347, run the Angel Fund. They work closely with school counselors, nurses, social workers and principals to find out where help is most needed. "A student I had," recalled Cheryl. "We were going on Christmas break and I had noticed she wasn't eating at school. She was coming with this toothache, the parents just couldn't get her in and the dental places wanted the money up front."
Assistance is available 365 days a year, and those in the schools praise the rapid response to requests, filled sometimes in just a few hours.
"So many people question charitable giving these days," continued Bill. "And they say 'Well, how much is your administrative costs? if I give you 100 dollars how much of that goes to the kids?' I say, '100%'"
Since the organization got off the ground in 2003, it's lent a hand to nearly 400 children in the Chippewa Valley, and organizers say as long as they keep raising money they'll keep giving it out.
The Masonic Angel Fund operates on donations. If you'd like more information, or to give to the fund, contact the Masonic Center in Eau Claire.