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Krystal Simon and Doug Pitt
Tawnie Wilson | SBJ
Krystal Simon and Doug Pitt

2023 Economic Impact Awards Charitable Nonprofit of the Year: Care to Learn

Meeting the Need

Posted online

Now in its 15th year, 2023 was a record-setter for Care to Learn on multiple fronts.

The nonprofit, which fills health, hunger and hygiene needs through partnerships set up with school districts and communities, spent a record $2.1 million in fiscal 2023 to aid students.

Fundraising efforts also reached an all-time high for the organization at $3.4 million, doubling the previous fiscal year’s total of $1.7 million, says CEO Krystal Simon.

“We had an anonymous donor that came to the table that essentially allowed us to double the funds raised,” she says. “Those funds then get to go back into those communities.”

Another large contributor to the fundraising efforts was a first-time event held in Springfield, School Soiree, which Simon says brought in nearly $241,000.

“We had never had a fundraiser like that,” she says. “Care to Learn is not a hard sell. People want to support kids and meet their basic needs.”

Simon says the 42nd chapter for the organization, founded in 2008 by Springfield businessperson Doug Pitt, was just recently secured.

At 8,500 students, she says, the Jefferson City School District will be the fourth-largest school system served by Care to Learn, which has a systemwide annual operating budget of $1.7 million.

Over 130,000 students in the state have access to the nonprofit’s resources and support.

To better meet the increased need, staff size at Care to Learn increased to seven employees from three when Simon became the organization’s leader in 2021.

“We know as we continue to raise more dollars and we continue to spend more dollars to meet student needs, there is going to be a direct correlation to staffing,” she says, noting Care to Learn served around 21% more students in fiscal 2023 than the previous year.

“I feel like our team and the people that we work with have done a really good job of making sure that everybody from the bus driver to the superintendent knows the role that Care to Learn plays in their community,” she says. “As long as it’s under the guardrails of hunger, health and hygiene, we can be that gap-filler and meet their student needs in the best way possible.”

As more school districts start going to four-day school weeks – meaning that low-income students are provided with one fewer day per week of breakfasts and lunches – Care to Learn intends to help meet those hunger needs, Simon says.

Over 140 out of the roughly 500 school districts in the state now operate on four-day weeks, according to media reports.

“We know that the need is high, and we know that the cost to meet those needs is getting higher,” she says. “We can only grow to the extent that we have donors willing to support our mission.

“That’s what’s beautiful about Care to Learn is that those dollars get to go to those students. As long as we have cash on hand and available for that community, we can meet those needs.”

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