February Community Award Spotlight: Lakeland Community Church and Delavan-Darien School District

Every day, members of our communities rise to meet unexpected challenges. From children to parents and from caregivers to businesses, we have all been asked to step up and become leaders. We’ve faced and pivoted to adapt and grow through our everchanging world due to unforeseen events that affect our daily lives. No action is too small, and together our impact is large.

Your actions should be recognized and celebrated. Our communities are the foundation of our society, and we stand stronger together. PLTW is proud to celebrate diverse communities and its members who exhibit collaboration, leadership, and entrepreneurship in service across the nation. As a result, we have created the PLTW Community Celebration Awards to recognize communities that have come together to care for each other in times of need. Join us in celebrating the following community this month!

Delavan-Darien School District in Delavan, Wisconsin, supports nearly 2,500 students in grades K-12. The school district has seen an increase in students of poverty over the past few years, but especially since COVID-19, with the district average nearing 70 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals. When Lakeland Community Church, located in nearby Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, saw a need in the district, they stepped in to help.

Those at Lakeland recognized that many families were struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unable to provide basic items such as school supplies for their children. The church congregation worked together with the greater community, including several local businesses, to coordinate a “Backpack GiveBack” event.

“School district administrators created a Google form for interested parents to share their needs so items could be prepared for the distribution event,” Darien Elementary School Principal Kelly Pickel said. “Within one hour of emailing the form out to all district families, nearly 300 students were signed up to receive a free backpack. There was definitely a need for such an event!”  

The program provided 535 backpacks full of school supplies to the students in the Delavan-Darien School District. In addition to backpacks, it provided over 200 pairs of jeans, over 50 pairs of shoes, and 33 haircuts to students in the district. The initiative also provided meals to families from local restaurants through gift card donations, as well as 375 disposable masks for educators. More than 100 volunteers came together to make this all possible.

Students who were unable to attend the event received their backpack on their first day of school. Remaining backpacks, jeans, and shoes were distributed to each school building to be given out when needed.

“What an amazing partnership between the school district, church, and local business partners to benefit so many students and families in need,” Pickel said.

In addition, the church’s group Lakeland Impact, which joins members of the church with the community, organized a parade for essential workers at the local hospital, coordinated a diaper drive for a local food shelf, and completed many other services to the community since the pandemic hit Wisconsin in March 2020. PLTW Master Teacher and Lakeland Community Church’s Impact Resident Eryca Card leads the group.

These initiatives are just recent examples of a long history of support from the community for this school district. Four local churches have partnered with the elementary school administration for several years to sponsor the Food in a Backpack program. The churches provide funds to purchase food that is sent home by the school to children in need. In addition, school and church staff work with a local grocer to secure food items for two different meal options for over 100 students at two district elementary schools. 

“Support by local businesses and churches has provided such an amazing opportunity for students and their families to have meals for the weekend when not at school,” Pickel said. “As is often stated, ‘To make a difference in someone's life, you don't have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful, or perfect. You just have to care.’" The local businesses and churches of Delavan-Darien have truly demonstrated how much they care about the students and families in the district.