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Mrs. Wasilewski Stands at the Intersection of Generosity and Need

Volunteer loads a boxful of donations into the back of her car.

Pictured here: Jackson Primary kindergarten teacher Kristina Clark is one of the many volunteers upon whom Mrs. Wasilewski can depend.

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In times of uncertainty such as what we are now experiencing, one thing that can be counted on is that District social worker Julie Wasilewski will continue to reach out to students’ families who may need support and encouragement as well as her knowledge of community resources. As the District’s liaison between home, school, and the community, she works to ensure that students with academic, social, or behavior challenges have what they need to progress toward reaching their potential.

What may not be as generally known, however, is that in this pandemic, in addition to linking families with the school and community resources available to them for help and guidance, she has also been serving as a conduit between generosity and need.

“I’m in the right place at the right time,” she says. Noting that she often is serving the most vulnerable of our population, the strain of the coronavirus quarantine and shutdown has taken a toll on a wider range of people, adding to the numbers of those who require a helping hand. Much, of course, is being done through local channels already designed to provide care and support – the school’s Grab and Go meal distribution stands proudly alongside agencies, religious organizations, and civic groups that are able to provide various forms of assistance. The Genesee County Interagency Council, to which Mrs. Wasilewski in her role as District social worker belongs, represents a long-standing association and concerted effort to provide a safety net for the vulnerable.

While the Council is typically the first place she goes for assistance, and the network of agencies and organizations are accustomed to stretching and connecting to provide help, the current levels of need are unlike anything seen before. Fortunately, generosity has been outpacing previous levels as well.

“It (the generosity) started small, and it actually started before COVID hit,” said Mrs. Wasilewski. “I had a woman from Stafford who started giving me some toys, clothes, and other items for children for when I would do home visits.” When the virus erupted, she began to do more - then word started getting around that children were excited to receive a game or coloring book. Those who heard began donating from their own surplus or purchasing items to give. Some heard of donations of gift cards or essential personal care and feminine products, and decided to do the same. Still others, through their work with the Interagency Council, their job within the School District, or their connection to other community groups, have been in a position to respond to a specific need - such as replacing a family’s broken stove, or locating several DVD players and movies for families without that form of entertainment. As a result, Mrs. Wasilewski’s porch is constantly being replenished from multiple sources.

Now, along with providing the professional support and links to community resources, Mrs. Wasilewski says, “Whatever the families need, we’re finding a way to get it for them.”

She emphasizes the word “we”, stressing that this is clearly not a one-person operation. She describes her home as the current command post staffed by her and her daughter, BHS graduate Paige, who is home from college. Teachers and other volunteers from the District take turns picking up donations to bring to her house, and/or delivering them as directed. From the time of closure in mid-March to mid-April, extra assistance was provided for 237 children from 84 families.

“There’s just been an outpouring of generosity,” she said. “There are so many people who are so generous but want to remain under the radar. They just say, ‘What do you need?’ and the next day, I look on my porch and it’s there. It’s so impactful. So powerful.”

The help has been overwhelming at times, especially when she knows that families in need can be faced with having to choose between buying food or buying personal care items. For them, purchases of non-essentials are out of the question.

“The thank-yous I receive are just gushing,” she said. “People are just very grateful. And I just feel so fortunate to be able to serve them.”

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If you need to contact Mrs. Wasilewski, her email is jwasilewski@bataviacsd.org