Lincoln Charter plans to open community trauma center amid COVID-19 struggles

Lincoln Charter School fourth grader Leonel Valencia, 10, left, picks up lunch for four at Lincoln Charter School in York City, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The school obtained a COVID-19 waiver which allows them to serve the meals not only to Lincoln charter students, but to all children on the west end between the ages of 2-18. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Lincoln Charter School is planning to open a community trauma center next spring to support families in the wake of the pandemic and to bolster York City's west end.

Though the idea is not new, Anne Clark, Lincoln's director of community outreach, said the COVID-19 pandemic created a greater sense of urgency.

“Almost everybody has trauma,” Clark said, and the March shutdowns for businesses and schools spotlighted the issues, as families struggled with isolation, financial strain and home life.

The center would act as a one-stop shop for anything families might need, from trauma-informed care to resources for economic support, behavioral health services and child welfare services, to name a few, Clark said.

Anne Clark, Lincoln Charter School director of community outreach/affirmation assistant principal, greets school staff during a drive-thru Teacher Appreciation Week event at the school Tuesday, May 5, 2020. Staff were treated to a goody bag with items that ranged from snacks to school supplies to toilet paper. Teacher Appreciation Week is a national event created by the national Parent/Teacher Association in 1984. Bill Kalina photo

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Thanks to numerous donations to help families affected by a recent hotel fire, Clark said, a food pantry and clothing pantry are set to open in the next couple of weeks.

Both the pantries and the center will be at 459 W. King St., a building Lincoln is leasing for its potential expansion. If a sixth grade class is approved, those students would have a separate entrance.

In a meeting July 27, Lincoln officials and community leaders discussed the most pressing needs in the area, and a big one was support services for reentry to the community after incarceration.

Another need, which Lincoln principal and CEO Leonard Hart hopes to address, is building infrastructure for those without internet access.

More:Lincoln submits charter renewal application, wants to add middle school grades

During school especially, families run into situations in which multiple people are trying to use a hot spot and end up having to increase data plans or delay paying other bills, Clark said.

Gov. Tom Wolf on July 27 announced his plan to make Pennsylvania a trauma-informed state — and part of that included connecting services through grassroots movements and highlighting public schools as a central place to reach the state’s children and their families.

"Schools are a really excellent place to provide wellness care," said Anne Gray, a community representative for the leadership committees of York County System of Care, a multisystem partnership that works with youth.

And family needs only increased during the pandemic, Hart said, noting the rise in food distribution as the months have gone on.

What started as a few hundred meals for students quickly expanded to 500 or 600 for those in the surrounding community, along with deliveries to hotels serving the homeless, he said.

Lincoln Charter School head cook Jaira Dorm brings out bags of breakfast to-go to be distributed with lunches at the school in York City, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The school obtained a COVID-19 waiver which allows them to serve the meals not only to Lincoln charter students, but to all children on the west end between the ages of 2-18. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Hart said he's had recurring conversations since the start of the pandemic with adults who are finding themselves in tough situations, such as a father who recently lost his job.

"It’s degrading — was the word I think he used — to come in and ask for food when I’ve always been a provider," Hart said the man told him.

A lot of people are dealing with trauma and don't see that until they're in a safe space, Clark said, so the plan is to have the center be that space. 

Akilah Hawkins, who is on the board for Hope Street Learning Lab and president of Lincoln's parent advisory committee, said she's seen people recognize their own trauma after hearing others' experiences.

"It shocked them that they actually had been dealing with trauma," she said.

Lincoln's trauma center would be open to anyone seeking services, but particularly York City's west end — in which students will help do geomapping over the next few months to see what services are available and needed.

Steve Beck, of the nonprofit Geographic Information Systems Consulting, is working with the school through the Geomentor for Educators program so they can track and log service providers.

They all hope to map more neighborhoods and create a network for the community.

Officials are seeking organizational partners for the trauma center, and they will be holding community meetings throughout the school year, on Dec. 15, March 16 and June 22.