Purposity app connects community to Capital School District students in need

DOVER — Though a student may only be in class for part of their day, it’s important to meet the needs of the whole child, said Rod Fesel, McKinney-Vento/truancy liaison for Capital School District.

“If you want to maximize the child’s education, you want the child to truly be able to learn at their best higher level and to be there engaged fully, we have to take care of these minimal needs,” he said.

That was the driving factor behind rolling out Purposity, an app that connects students and their families in need with the community willing to donate.

“It’s a very focused way to address the needs of students and targeted needs,” Mr. Fesel said. “Hence the word Purposity — it stands for generosity with a purpose.”

The app is free to download. Once installed on your phone, Purposity uses location to generate different local organizations enrolled with the app. Community members can then “follow” an organization and be notified when that organization posts requests. Capital School District is the only Delaware organization at this time.

When an item is posted, a description is provided — though it never breaches student confidentiality — along with the price. Donors purchase the item directly through Purposity; the item then ships to the district and is given to the student and family.

Use of the app came without any fiscal impact to the district, Mr. Fesel added.

“I get so many calls on, ‘How can we help?’” Mr. Fesel said. “And, just in that moment, I don’t have an answer. This way, you’ll know because I’m going to post it. And if you want to help, there’s your opportunity to do it.”

Mr. Fesel said that staff vets each need from the families.

Lawanda Burgoyne, supervisor of student services, said the current system sees requests come through her office. Those requests can trickle through in a variety of ways.

For instance, she said, a school nurse could see that a student doesn’t have a winter jacket and approach student services staff.

Using funds the district has, the staff then has to find the coat, get a check to purchase it, go out to buy it from a local store and fill out the paperwork about the purchase.

“It ends up being not only a very labor intensive, but a time intensive, process,” she said.

They can also approach local organizations for donations, she added.

While those donations are helpful and do benefit students, Mr. Fesel said that the donations are broad strokes; Purposity offers a more targeted approach to get a specific child a specific item.

The district needs to reach 400 followers before it can post requests; it is currently at just more than 230.

“We just had a mother who suffered a house fire in East Dover last week. That would have been a perfect opportunity for Purposity — ‘Hey, I need mattresses, I need sheets, I need pillows, I need clothes,’” Mr. Fesel said. “That way, I can get the community who wants to help notified of this situation and then they can set forth and offer the help.”

Mr. Fesel noted that there are students eligible for funding through McKinney-Vento funding, a federal grant which supports students who are experiencing homelessness, but Purposity is intended to help other families.

“We have other funding sources and other resources that we would use first before we ever posted something to Purposity,” Ms. Burgoyne said. “This really is more of a safety net for our families who don’t technically qualify for some of those other supports, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have need.”

The app differs from other donation-model platforms, like GoFundMe or Donors Choose, Ms. Burgoyne added.

“There is no additional charge. There’s no surcharge. Purposity has angel donors who fund their infrastructure, so the money spent goes directly to the item that’s purchased to go to the student or family,” she said. “This also has that approval process where it comes through my staff, and we’re ensuring it as a genuine need. So people can know that their money is going to a documented need in their community.”

The needs represented through the app also will be specific to students and their families, rather than classroom supplies or in-school items.

“We care about the physical and emotional well being of our students. And if they’re not coming into school, with shoes, with coats, having had a good night’s sleep, it makes our job 100 times harder to teach them,” Ms. Burgoyne said.

“We’re talking about meeting the needs of all whole child and maximizing their day as a child learning,” Mr. Fesel added. “So, [we’re] trying to make them feel just as typical as anyone else who was able to come to school with those needs being met.”