It began in April as a simple enough plan: Bridges Academy at Melrose principal Anita Iverson-Comelo and her husband would donate their stimulus checks to Bridges families, 80 percent of whom had lost their source of income during the pandemic and majority of whom did not qualify for a stimulus check or unemployment benefits from the government.
Then several Bridges’ teachers joined in and offered to donate their checks, as did other OUSD principals. A website was set up StimulusPledge.org , and the donations kept coming in. The total amount raised from the stimulus pledge has almost reached $250,000. They recently put together this video to thank donors.
“When we started out I didn’t realize how big this was going to be and how much we would raise,” Iverson-Comelo said. “I started to think this could be something to help more than a few families.”
Combining funds from Bridges GoFundMe and the StimulusPledge.org campaign donations from each Bridges family who didn’t qualify for a stimulus check, more than 200 of them received $750. StimulusPledge.org campaign also distributed another $150,000 to other Oakland district and charter school communities “to help families in similar situations,” Iverson-Comelo said.
Iverson-Comelo said there is some science behind why the stimulus pledge caught on. “When people get money they were not expecting, before they start spending, if they can put it towards a greater cause, they are more likely to follow through,” she said. The compelling cause, combined with many teachers pledging to donate their checks as well, helped the pledge really catch on. “People saw educators were doing it and that really motivated people,” Iverson-Comelo said.
Some money from the pledge is still trickling in. Iverson-Comelo said that this fall Bridges staff will interview new families to better understand their needs as well. The needs of families, of course, have only grown since the pandemic began. Iverson-Comelo said that she has been calling landlords on Craigslist regarding housing for families.
“We hope it doesn’t end,” Iverson-Comelo said. “There still is a need for families, financially they are still hurting.”