By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer
(April 23, 2020) The Art League of Ocean City and Worcester County Arts Council are helping Worcester County public school students by donating art kits to help with their projects.
Although the center on 94th Street is closed, the Art League donated 350 kits filled with pencils, paper, crayons and markers to be used for educational purposes.
“The school system started their online learning and then they rapidly realized that a lot of the kids didn’t even have the basic supplies at home, no clean paper or even real simple things like markers or colored pencils for kids to do online learning and art projects,” Executive Director Rina Thaler said.
Coordinator of Instruction Tamara Mills asked Thaler and Anna Mullis, president of the Worcester County Arts Council, for help with the art supplies. Thaler accepted, even though her organization could use a financial boost itself, because it was the right thing to do, she said.
“We’re at a point where we’re closed, laying people off, trying to pay our employees and not bringing any income in either,” Thaler said. “So, I appealed to our board of directors to put in the money for the donation, and they donated $900 for the first round of the kits, which provided the initial 350.
“Our board felt very committed to helping the youth,” she continued. “As a non-profit organization, even though we’re facing a lot of financial challenges right now, we couldn’t turn our back on the kids of Worcester County … they need us.
In addition to the art supplies, the Art League also provided a Heart with a Hug poster for families to color and post to their windows to show their support for emergency responders and essential workers.
Thaler is asking the organization’s grant providers to raise more money to pay for another round of 350 kits.
Mullis of the Worcester County Arts Council was also happy to help the students in any way she could.
“We know how challenging it is for [students] to be away from school, from teachers, from their normal environment and being at home, a lot of students don’t have access to essential materials,” Mullis said. “It was very important for us to reach out and show support to the schools and show that the community really cares for our schools.
“I hope the students will feel comforted by the fact that there are community organizations thinking about them,” she continued. “I hope that they will be able to create something colorful and inspiring to help them move forward.”
The Worcester County Arts Council also gave 350 kits, and if the need arises, will donate more in the near future.
Mills is thrilled that the Art League and Arts Council was able to help.
“We thought it was important, because while we do have a lot of students with materials at home, we also are very aware that we have a large number of students who don’t have access to those things at all,” Mills said.
“Within the first week of online learning, we got a couple of responses from kids saying that they didn’t have drawing paper at home and to please accept this assignment in a different material because they didn’t have things like crayons or markers.
“We knew there was a gap, but it became more evident as the learning began,” she continued. “We really wanted to quickly get some materials to students for them to complete assignments with those materials.”
In addition to the kits helping students perform their assignments, Mills also believes it will be useful for students’ emotional and mental health.
“It’s also a way for students to create in a time of crisis, art and music … their special area subjects are so important because it allows them to express emotion,” Mills said. “It allows them to work through their feelings of anxiety or depression at this time. Those areas are vital right now.”
Mental health, Mills said, is just as important to student’s education as math, science and English and helps keep them engaged.
“Getting a student to talk about music at the dinner table from an activity that they did or getting them to sit down and create a drawing. It just releases so much stress, it helps calm children. It’s really important to make sure that we don’t just ignore those content areas right now, but rather embrace them in a way that allows students to physically and mentally be well.”
Fifty of the school material kits will be available at each food site location offered by the Worcester County Public Schools.