The Friends of Rectortown, a nonprofit created in 2003, has created an endowment fund to benefit Claude Thompson Elementary School. Organization President Henry Lavine is spearheading the effort.
“The principal and teachers use personal funds to help with students’ emergencies,” he said. “Perhaps a child needs a warm coat. Dad has no gas in the car to take a child to the doctor … the list goes on and on. Our teachers are underpaid, and this is a recurring hardship. The fund initially will provide the principal with a modest fund to deal with this. As the fund grows, there will be other benefits for the school.”
Lavine has already collected $20,000 for the endowment fund. The goal for this year is to have $30,000 to $40,000 for this year; over the next few years Lavine would like to raise $100,000 or more. The principle would remain intact; the interest would be used for students’ needs.
Claude Thompson Principal Mary Pat Warter said she — along with her team of administrators and the school’s guidance counselor — will decide how best to utilize the funding. “Students and families have needs that don’t fit into a line in a budget … shoes, backpacks, gas for a trip to the dentist.” She said at least one teacher has driven to Front Royal to pay for and pick up a pair of eyeglasses for a student.
Warter insists, “It’s not just us. I think all teachers are superheroes.”
She said, “We keep track of the expenses, for accountability, but not to judge.” Warter said that a high number of her students come from families that may be economically disadvantaged. “Before COVID, more than 60% of our students were eligible for reduced lunches. I can’t imagine that it hasn’t gotten worse.”
The pandemic has caused challenges for her students in particular, she said. Last year was so difficult because “the technology is inconsistent. We are all learning new things every single day, but it’s like flying a plane and building it at the same time. There is an academic deficit, and we find ourselves trying to catch up,” she said.
Warter said that the school does some limited fundraising. “We don’t make much from fundraising. Five hundred dollars from an event would be an amazing success. And we don’t like to ask more of our families,” she said.
Friends of Rectortown has contributed in myriad ways to the school, said Warter. “They have helped with weekend meal packs and with our food garden – they and some garden clubs helped us create that.”
Warter remembered when Henry Lavine and his wife Ronda McCrea moved to Rectortown. “We got phone call from this couple that had just moved to the area and wanted to help the school. We thought, ‘Oh, they’ll read to the kids,’ but he said, ‘Ah … no. We want to do more. We want to have people write checks.’”
Warter said, “Hank has a tremendous passion for community. He and his wife have made us a better school, helping us create strong partnerships with our community that have lasted for years.”
Warter has been principal at Claude Thompson for 20 years. “I feel better about everything now because of the community’s involvement.”
Donations to the endowment fund may be made out to Friends of Rectortown, Inc. with the notation: Claude Thompson Endowment Fund. They can be mailed to Friends of Rectortown, c/o Henry Lavine, P.O. Box 333, Rectortown, Virginia 20140.
Donors committed before the end of the year will be listed as “founding sponsors” on a plaque at the school.
No administrative fees will be incurred, said Lavine, “Every nickel will go to the endowment fund.”