A first-time community services fair put on by the group formerly known as Educate Don’t Segregate saw a huge turn out Monday night, to the pleasant surprise of its organizers.
The group, which now goes by Community Advocates for Education (CAfE), teamed up with Leesburg Elementary School to host a Community Services Night for all Leesburg area families.
Hundreds of students and their parents packed the school’s gymnasium to visit with representatives from more than 30 community organizations and businesses. Among the nonprofits represented were Loudoun Interfaith Relief, Mobile Hope and Paxton Campus. Businesses that set up booths at the event included Dragon Yong In, New York Life and Inova Loudoun.
There was plenty to keep the kids entertained, too, with face painting, crafts, dancing, and tours of a big red fire engine.
“It’s like a one stop shop to get to know what’s in your neighborhood,” Leesburg Elementary Principal Angela Robinson said.
She’s helped put on similar community service fairs at Sugarland Elementary School in Sterling. She said she was particularly impressed with Monday’s event because it was the result of efforts from parents and other community members, and it catered to families who spoke English and Spanish. “So that everybody can get the information,” she said. “I don’t think families always know all of the choices in child care or other services they have. This is a good chance for them to get to know what’s available.”
Evan Macbeth, one of the founding members of CafE, was impressed at the large crowd that showed up on a summer weekday night, which indicates a need for this type of community outreach. He said several people suggested the group put on community service nights at other schools throughout Loudoun.
The fair was the first event put on by CafE since it changed its name and focus following the contentious Leesburg Elementary attendance boundary debate. The group formed as Educate Don’t Segregate during that process in March to protest one of the School Board’s proposals to assign more students to schools closest to their homes, which would have resulted in high concentrations of poor and non-English speaking students at just two schools.
The School Board opted for a boundary plan that more evenly divided those students among the town’s nine elementary schools. Once that issue was put to rest, members of the group agreed to turn their focus to helping academically at-risk students and their families in the Leesburg area. The group’s new mission is “to advocate for the best educational outcomes for students in Central Loudoun and to foster greater community involvement.”
Lydia Pellow, co-chairwoman of the group’s community outreach efforts, said that Community Advocates for Education wants to provide resources—as well as connect families to already available resources—to help the schools meet those students’ needs, and Monday was a good step toward that goal.