The District 97 PTO has found a longstanding partner in the Good Heart Work Smart Foundation, which has pledged to continue to support the district’s Diversity Council’s Angel Fund, by allocating $50,000 yearly to assist district families who are struggling financially and meet student needs for the next three years. 

While the district’s PTOs have long helped Oak Park families experiencing economic hardship, the Angel Fund was established in 2021 as a partnership between the district’s presiding PTO Council along with the Diversity Council (DivCo) with the help of the Good Heart Work Smart foundation which donated $100,000 towards its creation.

The Good Heart Work Smart Foundation was co-founded in 2005 by Mary Jo Shuler, who has long been a philanthropist in the Oak Park community and whose past donations have included funds donated by her family for the scoreboard at Oak Park and River Forest High School’s South Field.

The foundation had previously donated $100,000 in 2021 and contributed an additional $50,000 to the funds in 2022 before making the pledge to match last year’s donation for the next three years.  

Angel Funds are available to families who need financial assistance for school related costs, which include clothing, toiletries, field trip fees, school supplies, and snacks amongst other forms of assistance. 

According to the PTO Council, there is a strong focus on helping students participate in academic activities during school as well as school events and traditions, along with making sure their basic needs are also being met during the school day. 

“Its goal is to provide funding to individual students in need, prioritizing first students whose families qualify for free or reduced lunch, as well as students who face socioeconomic or cultural barriers to participating fully in their school communities,” read a press release by the group. 

Shuler said there is a comfort in knowing staff will have access to Angel Funds to help students. 

“I applaud the PTOC, DivCo volunteers, and staff for their elevated focus on helping D97 students confidentially, seamlessly, and quickly to receive incidental items and support that enable our students to more fully participate in their school experience,” Shuler said in the press release. 

In hopes of meeting basic needs, all families are eligible to request assistance regardless of their free or reduced lunch status. According to the district, 20 percent of D97 students already participate in the free or reduced lunch program. 

“As evidenced by the recent COVID pandemic, economic hardship due to illness or job loss can touch any family. The funds function as a safety net for families allowing students to focus on learning and school experiences,” said the group. 

D97 Superintendent Ushma Shah expressed her gratitude for the “generous” contributions by the foundation to support district students.

“This partnership reflects our community’s strong commitment to supporting our schools and ensuring that every student has what they need to be successful,” said Shah in the press release. 

While the organization is grateful for the annual pledge, they hope to continue to encourage the community to work alongside them to provide for district students and make a “broader impact.” 

All donations to the Angel Fund are tax deductible and can be made to Lincoln PTO, Attn: D97 Student Angel Fund, 1111 S. Grove Avenue, Oak Park. 

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