By John Caruth

Our community has a strong history of pulling together, especially in times of need. Just last month our local Arby’s hosted a fundraiser to support a high school student in his fight against cancer. Thousands showed up. Thousands of dollars were raised. It was hard to make it through the long line to order with dry eyes. Vail truly lives up to the motto of the Vail School District, “Where education is a community effort.” It’s not just empty words We live it. I see it daily.

I’m quite certain that those in our community who crafted our motto in the late 1980’s couldn’t have imagined that this motto would be used to serve as a guiding light during a pandemic, but it certainly is.

Delivering high-quality public education is our primary mission. Working in partnership with our community, we execute that mission well. The Vail School District is widely recognized as one of the best school districts in Arizona. We can all take pride in this achievement.

Today, providing high quality education remains our core purpose even as schools are closed to students. In a very short period of time, principals and teachers have pivoted to provide quality educational opportunities to students in their respective homes. There are numerous examples of creative lessons and projects taking place at kitchen tables, backyards, and sidewalks across our community.

Yet over the past month, I have been moved by the power of our motto as it extends beyond the classroom and into our community to support young people and families during a critical time of need.

Our community is home to many families who work as health care providers, first responders, military, or other fields deemed “essential” during the Governor’s stay at home order.

A few of these families have no one else to care for their children while they work. Our community services and Vail inclusive preschool child-care programs are offering services to about sixty children across four different sites so these parents can provide critical services to keep our community running.

Groups of community volunteers from ReSources Food Bank, local churches, and neighborhood groups have been working alongside bus drivers, teachers, and others to organize and deliver meals to any child in the community 18 years or younger.

We all hope that announced layoffs and furloughs are temporary, and we can safely return to a sense of normalcy sometime soon. In the meantime, the meals program is providing critical support to families who just weeks ago, didn’t need that level of support. There has been a steady increase in the number of daily meals served, and now nearly 2,500 children are served meals daily.

As one volunteer so aptly put it, “Being able to meet the need for both food and a safe means of connection in our community is the rainbow in the storm for all of us during this time.”

The Vail community certainly finds the beauty in pulling together.

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