ProUnitas donation helps HISD family after devastating loss of home

Three weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, an early morning fire swept through the home of an HISD family, causing them to lose everything.

The early April blaze not only destroyed the Jackson family’s home and the entirety of its contents, but it also left Destiny Jackson, whose five children attend HISD schools, with severe burns over a large percentage of her body after she ran into the burning home to carry her youngest son, Malik, to safety.

“My family and I are still dealing with a lot of emotion from that night,” Marcus Jackson said. “It is very hard for me talk about it, but what I can tell you is that my wife is the bravest person I know.”

Upon learning of the fire, Elmore Elementary School Wraparound Specialist Curtis Simmons, who works closely with three of the Jackson children, jumped into action to help connect the family with the immediate donations and resources they needed – including food, clothing and technology for school.

It was during those efforts that Simmons learned of a recent monetary donation given to the district from ProUnitas and Give Together Now for select HISD families. Simmons, along with his colleagues at Key Middle School and Kashmere High School, where the other two Jackson students attend, brainstormed about how they could help the family of seven be selected for assistance.

“We knew that the Jackson family had to receive the donation, so we wrote a letter advocating for them,” he said.  “We are so grateful that God saw fit that they were picked.”

The Jacksons are one of 174 families who have received a $500 donation from ProUnitas through a partnership with “Give Together Now,” a national campaign created by Stand Together. ProUnitas advocated that they, along with HISD, would be excellent stewards of the campaign’s assistance, due to the use of the nonprofit’s own software, Purple, that offers a school-based systems coordination that was the primary driver on deciding which families received the funding.

“We made the case that ProUnitas has the technology infrastructure and the data to systematically distribute these funds to families who really need it,” ProUnitas Chief Strategy and Growth Officer Albert Wei said. “From there we were given those funds to support the students of HISD, which is super wonderful.”

A collaborative district partner, ProUnitas works hand in hand with HISD’s Wraparound Services Team to ensure that families such as the Jacksons have equitable access to all the supports available to them.

The pandemic has kicked that goal into high gear. With food insecurities, housing anxieties and mental anguish on the rise, HISD Wraparound Services, according to the department’s Director Jarad Davis, has had to expand, assigning the team’s 140 specialists an additional school, in some cases two, to ensure that all HISD students have access to the services and resources they need during this time.

“What this pandemic did was exacerbate the issues that were already there, and it made them more prominent,” he said. “We are still reaching out in every way possible and making sure our families have everything they need.”

While the work can be tough, Davis describes these efforts as a labor of love. ProUnitas and HISD’s Wraparound Services team are working together as partners to ensure that HISD students and families like the Jackson’s have everything they need during this unprecedented time.

“We are so happy to have people we don’t even know that care so much,” Destiny Jackson said. “They check in on us every day, and I can’t even begin to describe how grateful we are to them for that.”