Decatur resident and parent spends $2,500 buying books for College Heights students
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Decatur, GA – As COVID-19 continues to spread globally, schools have closed for the rest of the academic year. Efforts to keep kids’ learning alive at College Heights ECLC in Decatur haven’t stopped, though.
Local resident and parent Meredith McCoyd gave Angela Gabriel, co-owner of Charis Books and pre-K teacher at College Heights, a budget of $2,500 to send children’s books to all 45 kids in the College Heights’ head start program, a non-tuition program for low-income families.
“She had reached out and said that she wants to provide for children in need, and she wanted to work with Charis,” Gabriel said, “and so it became very natural that I thought of College Heights and our kids there that might not have everything that others do in this time.”
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The two women have known each other since McCoyd’s son, Matthew, was in Gabriel’s pre-K class about 13 years ago. They’ve kept in touch throughout the years, so when McCoyd saw the potential for some kids’ learning to suffer away from school, she knew where to go.
“I thought, Miss Gabriel – she’s the one to know. And sure enough, I asked her the question, you know, what can we do for these kiddos? And she knew exactly what to do,” McCoyd said. “She put it all together, and she explained it beautifully.”
For Gabriel, College Heights is “where my heart is in the world.”
“I think the thing I really love the most is that I got to handpick books. I know the kids, and I know a lot of their personalities and some things that they like,” she said. “I was also able to get books that will support the learning that has already happened in the classroom, and that they’re continuing to receive via tele-teaching.”
With McCoyd’s budget in mind, Gabriel was able to pick out multiple books for each kid, which will be mailed to their house with a small note from College Heights.
“Little people don’t understand everything that’s going on, but what they will understand is getting something really fun and special and unique and knowing that it’s just for them,” Gabriel said.
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And while this is an unprecedented time for schools across the country, McCoyd recognizes how fortunate her son Matthew has been to attend schools in Decatur. She started giving to Decatur schools back when Matthew was in elementary school at Winnona Park.
“I pulled up to the school one day, and I saw the special needs program, and they just did the most beautiful job with these kids. They loved on ‘em, and they hugged on ‘em and made sure that they were so well taken care of,” she said. “That’s what precipitated my giving to the schools. It’s a village, and we all take care of our own.”
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McCoyd has given thousands to the city’s schools over the years, including a $500,000 donation to the Decatur Education Foundation. In 2012, McCoyd received a share of $84 million awarded by the federal government as part of the $1.5 billion settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit against her employer, Abbott Laboratories. The New York Times reported that McCoyd and the other whistleblowers also split $22 million in state-level claims.
McCoyd said Matthew has been cared for by the school community like he was their own, too, and so McCoyd asked herself, “why not give back to that community that you know is doing such a great job?”. It’s something Gabriel appreciates as both a local teacher and business owner.
“Decatur is not big office space. It is not Amazon – Amazon would never give you a gift card for your kid’s soccer tournament, or support your child’s read-a-thon,” Gabriel said. “Decatur supports its local businesses and its local businesses support Decatur and our kids and our teachers…that’s what Decatur is.”
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