Moore Love Locks in On Helping OthersJan 04, 2021
"Moore Love" began four years ago as an idea to help the Regional Food Bank's "Backpack for Kids" program, which benefits around 700 Moore Public Schools (MPS) students each year. It has quickly become one of the most significant fundraising efforts in the city. Dr. Robert Romines, Moore's superintendent of schools, said he's amazed at what has happened with the annual program.
"It has just exploded," said Dr. Romines. "Mandy Kincannon, who was the president of the Moore Public Schools Foundation, came along with the initial idea of Moore Love. That first year we raised something right around $30,000."
In 2020, the Moore Love campaign raised about $250,000. Even more impressive than the growth is that the program is planned and executed entirely by the students in the MPS district, with a little guidance and support from sponsors and administrators.
Dr. Romines said, "It's been amazing to watch our kids do a huge work and have such a big impact on our community."
For the Moore Love program, leadership teams from all three high schools plan fundraising events involving their students throughout the year. In February, the fundraising culminates with a final slate of events and a reveal of the total amount raised. Rose Toscano is one of the leaders from Moore High School. She said the motivation for working hard is easy to explain.
"This is literally helping kids that you go to school with," said Toscano. "I was one of those kids who received a Food Bank backpack growing up, and now that my parents are in a better place financially, it's amazing to know that I can play a role in helping kids who face the same struggles I did growing up."
Southmoore's Jackson Lehew said he and the SaberCat leadership team share Toscano's passion for helping kids so close to home.
"It means so much to know that we know exactly where the money we raise is going," said Lehew. "It helps people right here in the MPS district that are in need, so seeing those needs met really has an impact on us."
Proceeds from the Moore Love program benefit the Regional Food Bank's Backpack for Kids program every year. The student leadership teams also choose a changing slate of other local recipients to receive funds. This gives them a chance to literally "spread the love" around different organizations and needs. The Moore Fire Department's "Santa Express" program is the 2021 recipient. For Southmoore's Jerzi Hawkins, last year brought a life-changing moment when she saw how Moore Love benefited Ally's House and Liam, a young Moore resident who was helped by the cancer-support organization.
"I remember the day when little Liam from Southgate visited our assembly to represent Ally's House," said Hawkins. "Almost every single person in the assembly was in tears listening to his story. It just really hit home for me how Moore Love touches so many lives in our community."
Dr. Romines said he and the rest of the MPS team find themselves continually amazed by local students' passion and focus as they invest so much energy and time in Moore Love each year.
"Our kids get it," said Dr. Romines. "If I think about it too much, I tend to get emotional. The fact that our high school students are leading the charge is amazing. But they're also creating a sense of pride and roots in our younger kids."
As a part of the Moore Love campaign, the leadership teams from all three high schools meet with leaders from the MPS feeder schools on the junior high and elementary school levels. Those high school kids help their younger counterparts plan their own Moore Love fundraising events, contributing to the overall funds raised.
"One of our Title 1 elementary schools raised around $20,000 last year," said Dr. Romines. "That's a pretty proud 'dad moment' when you realize that you have students at a school who are in need themselves, yet are willing to go out and help families who are in dire straits."
Ultimately, it's this tradition-building process that seems to be solidifying the Moore Love campaign as the kind of annual heritage that can help develop and define character in MPS students for years to come.
"We've done a lot of initiatives over the years," said Dr. Romines, "But Moore Love is one of my favorites. Not only does it have a profound impact on our community, but it's also pretty remarkable to see the way it's creating a sense of pride and roots in our kids about who they're going to be as they grow older."
As one might guess, fundraising in a pandemic year has been challenging. But the leaders from all three high schools said they're pressing on with plans to complete their important work.
"It has definitely stretched us to our full capacity," said Colindres, "But we've been working hard to keep people safe from COVID while planning events that help us reach our goals."
Toscano said, "Hands down, trying to plan events with COVID has put us in a pickle. But while we've had to cancel many things, we're still doing our best to be creative. The impact Moore Love has is worth all the effort."
One of the more obvious impacts of Moore Love on the high school students is to see how students from schools with such intense rivalries in sports are willing to set aside their passion for winning and work side-by-side to achieve lofty goals. Moore High School's David Colindres says there is some competitiveness about which school raises the most money, but that's a secondary issue.
"It's more important to us to help others, especially in this year of COVID-19 when so many people have lost jobs or struggled," said Colindres. "Sure, we're competitive, but that takes a backseat to what we can do to help others."
Southmoore's Lehew and Hawkins said it helps that leadership teams from the three high schools meet monthly to advise each other and make plans. They also agree that there's a comfortable balance between competition and collaboration for Moore Love.
"When it comes right down to it," said Lehew, "We all know that the money we raise is going to the same place, so that motivates us to help each other out as much as we can."
Hawkins said, "Raising more money than the other schools is a big motivation to our fellow students, but we all know that being competitive just helps us raise more money for those who need it most."
Dr. Romines said that for the adults who devote their lives to teaching kids in the Moore schools, the way MPS students have embraced Moore Love is one of the most encouraging things they see.
"We see that we're creating world-changers," said Dr. Romines. "My hope is that all of our kids eventually move back to Moore and become an essential part of our community. But no matter where they end up, we believe they've added an important philanthropic piece to their lives that will bless them and those around them."