Hit hard by the pandemic, on Tuesday Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy put out an urgent fundraising plea for the 2020-2021 academic school year.
The 501(c)(3) nonprofit school is seeking $140,000 by June 25, 2020, an amount that reflects the money the school expected to raise during in-person fundraising events this year to balance its operating budget for the school’s FY’21. School officials told GOOD Morning Wilton that in order for the school to stay afloat, the funds must be fully obtained by June 25.
“Due to our inability to fundraise and recruit during the pandemic, we have been
unable to reach our benchmark goals, and if we do not reach our goal, we will
have no choice but to close the school as of June 25,” Kevin Vallerie, Board Chair of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy (OLFCA), wrote to GMW.
With the slogan, “Providing the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Leaders,” the Pre-Kindergarten 3 through Grade 8 traditional Catholic school prides itself on a personalized approach to learning, boasting special features such as a 12-to-1 teacher to student ratio, multi-age classrooms below sixth grade and its Blue Ribbon School of Excellence status. However, as a small, independent school that does not receive any money from federal, state, or local sources, fundraising is a necessity to keep the academy open.
‘Our need to present a balanced budget for the upcoming school year in this time of uncertainty has amplified the urgency of our campaign,” Vallerie wrote. “As many businesses have struggled through this time, so have many of our schools.”
Due to the shutdown, annual fundraising events such as an annual Gala have been canceled, and the school’s Something Special Thrift Shop–another source of revenue–hasn’t been able to operate, making the need for financial support more urgent than ever. Moreover, the pandemic has stripped away the school’s ability to have potential students shadow classmates or take a tour, putting recruitment at a low level as well.
Additionally, though the school reported a quick and successful adjustment to eLearning, the uncertainty of how schools will be able to operate in the fall amid pandemic concerns is an added pressure.
“Given what’s happened with COVID-19 this year and the fact that we don’t know what will happen in the fall with the virus, we must demonstrate that we are financially stable going into the next school year and to ensure our continued viability and success and honor our commitments to our school community,” Vallerie added.
Though the school always fundraises to balance its budget, officials point to the pandemic as a reason to require raising the $140,000 to keep the school financially stable as it heads into an unknown future. They have said if that goal can’t be met, all donations will be returned to donors and the over 50-year-old academy risks shutting its doors.
Vallerie hopes the wider Wilton community–beyond those directly involved with OLFCA–will be moved to help. While not everyone may be directly impacted by what the school offers, he says that OLFCA makes a valuable contribution to the community at large.
“Our graduates become valedictorians at their high schools, National Honor Society members, scholar-athletes,” Vallerie said. “Our graduates take the lessons learned while at OLFCA and apply it to their everyday life.”
All money donated will go directly into the operating 2020-21 budget, a budget that Vallerie said allows OLFCA to “provide a nurturing academic environment that focuses on our motto of ‘Service above self’ and giving back to the community.” He cited the Easter meals delivered to staff at Norwalk Hospital, the hand-crafted cards delivered to the Brookdale Senior Center, and the food drive for the Wilton Food Pantry as some recent examples of community service performed by OLFCA students.
However, despite the school’s uncertain future, Principal Stanley Steele said in a press release that he is optimistic.
“Like most independent schools, we are feeling the pinch from COVID-19. But this is a short-term financial issue, it’s not insurmountable in the context of our total operating budget,” Steele said. “Once that shortfall is met, and the budget is in line with our enrollment, we will have a balanced budget going forward.”
Steele believes OLFCA is positioned well to meet student needs coming out of the pandemic. The school promotes its “Personalized Approach to Learning” platform with small classrooms and instruction based on individual student needs.
“Our parents overwhelmingly reported being happy with our distance learning program. If there are parents who feel their student did not thrive during their school’s distance learning program this past spring, we invite them to see what OLFCA has to offer,” Steel said, adding, “We are small enough to be flexible, whether that is on a distance platform or in person.”
Donations to OLFCA can be made on the school’s website, via the Gofundme page, Venmo @OurLadyofFatima-CatholicAcadem (reference “Fatima COVID Fund”) or drop off donations in person at the school from 8 a.m.-12:00 p.m. or parish rectory from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. at 225 Danbury Road, Wilton, CT. The school can provide a letter for federal tax deduction purposes as well.
OLFCA joins the Wilton Library and Trackside Teen Center as organizations hit hard by the pandemic. The Wilton Library, forced to postpone its 125th Anniversary Gala and annual spring book sale, launched a Matching Gift Challenge this week in the hopes of balancing its budget by the end of the fiscal year. A group of library trustees will match all donations up to $10,000 from June 15 through the end of the day on June 22.
Trackside Teen Center has launched a campaign called Wilton Shines Bright Fundraiser in which a donation of $20-$40 supports ‘pinning’ a friend or business with a ‘Wilton Shines Bright’ sign and 18-36 pinwheels. Since its start four weeks ago, the “meaningful movement” has pinned over 160 families and local businesses. With an eye toward keep momentum up, Trackside hopes to pin 100 more families before June 30 and will enter anyone who ‘pins’ a family before then into a raffle for a range of goodies.