When Brooke Thomas started a Facebook fundraiser early last week, she thought maybe she and other parents in her community would scrape together around $200. Little did she know that, in a matter of hours, they would exceed $7,000. The charitable effort was an attempt to support Williston, Vermont schools' custodial staff who were tasked with the deep cleaning of the facility following a staff member's potential exposure to the novel coronavirus. (He later tested negative.)
"We were having a conversation in a Facebook group for local parents, started by another mom in town a couple of years ago," explains Thomas. "People start talking about the school closure, and I made a comment like, 'We should recognize that our custodial staff is potentially walking into a contaminated school, in addition to being exposed to harsh chemicals.' It led to this conversation about what we could do for them. Everyone rallied together to try to support them."
Thomas was heartened to see that the fundraiser shifted focus from panic to focusing their energy on something altruistic.
Once the group decided to start a Facebook fundraiser, Thomas created the page, which she didn't realize could be shared all over the social network. "I’m not tech-savvy at all," she jokes. "I figured it was private to our local group, and I thought, 'OK, these are the people who are going to donate. We’ll raise maybe a couple of hundred bucks and get the custodians lunch.' But I woke up eight hours later to find out we had raised $2,000 overnight!"
From there, the contributions shot up until they reached a grand total of $7,450. On the fundraising page, Thomas explained, "The funds raised will be divided equally among the custodians as a heartfelt thank you for their service and commitment to a healthy and safe environment for our school children."
The mom of four shares with Parents.com that in light of the amazing result, the custodial staff is "beyond appreciative." "They never expected anything like this to happen, and they're wonderful people," she notes.
While she's been lauded for her efforts, Thomas doesn't want to take full credit for the fundraiser. "I'm the one who started the conversation, and it grew from there," she notes. "It seemed to be a way for people to put their heads in a different space for a while and help other people. People are trying to focus on the good when they can."
They're also turning their attention to focusing on the good they can do in other ways. The Williston parents' campaign has inspired similar fundraisers, such as another one in Williston to support a local food bank.
Ultimately, the Vermont mom hopes their efforts inspire others to support their community. "Even if it is calling your elderly neighbor and checking in or figuring out a way to get supplies to people," says Thomas. "Social distancing doesn't mean you can’t try to help other people. We're all impacted by this."
We're all sure to face challenging times ahead. Thomas herself is feeling daunted by having four kids home once their local schools close for good as of Wednesday. But the philosophy she's hoping people hold in mind is summed up by "hilarious, cute" hashtag Thomas said her sister came up with: #spreadkindnessnotvirus.