March 12, 2020
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This nonprofit boosts kids’ confidence through immediate cash assistance, but does so anonymously

Meet Alice's Kids, one of the finalists for the 2020 Renewal Awards. Five winners each will receive $40,000 from The Atlantic and Allstate.

Growing up poor in the 1960s gave siblings Ron and Laura Fitzsimmons (right and center, respectively) an understanding of the hardships and shame young people from disadvantaged families carry with them. They founded Alice’s Kids to provide schoolchildren with immediate financial assistance for everyday expenses like school field trips and new clothes.

EDITOR'S NOTE

Meet the finalists for the 2020 Renewal Awards. The annual program from The Atlantic and Allstate honors nonprofits that are creatively solving problems in their communities. This year, five winners each will receive a $40,000 prize from The Atlantic and Allstate. Subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to find out who the winners are and follow the hashtag #RenewalAwards.

Alice’s Kids is a nonprofit that works on the simple premise of providing young people in need with immediate financial assistance. For families experiencing poverty, these small gifts can mean a world of difference: $200 for a band field trip, a Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card for soccer cleats, a ticket to the prom.

What makes Alice’s Kids special is these gifts are all dispensed anonymously, with help from a network of teachers and school social workers who put in the requests on behalf of their students. For this unique approach, Alice’s Kids was named one of 15 finalists for The Renewal Awards, a program of The Atlantic and Allstate.

For co-founders, and siblings, Ron Fitzsimmons and Laura Fitzsimmons Peters, the mission is personal. Growing up in a single-parent home in the suburban enclave of West Islip, New York, in the 1960s, the family struggled financially. After rent and food, there was no money left over for new clothes. They got by with hand-me-downs, and at times clothes that were worn previously by classmates. The kids were teased and taunted as “the welfare family.”

“It was very humiliating,” Ron told The Washington Post last year. “One year I missed 67 days of school because I just didn’t want to go to school.”

Occasionally, their mother, Alice, would earn enough from cleaning jobs to afford a little extra and she would take the kids shopping for new clothes. “I just remember being so excited to buy something and go to school the next day and wear something that belongs to me,” said Laura.

Ron and Laura knew what a small gift could do to bolster a kid’s self esteem. But they didn’t want it to feel like charity. Alice’s Kids, named in honor of their mom whose small actions made a big difference in their lives, works by fielding requests directly from the teachers and school social workers who witness the immediate needs in their students’ lives. Requests range from new dress clothes for a school concert to summer camp dues to athletic equipment to be able to join the football team.

Ron manages the requests out of his home office in Mount Vernon, Virginia. So far in 2020, Alice’s Kids has had a record number of requests, originating from 31 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Follow Alice’s Kids on Twitter and Facebook. Donate to the nonprofit here.

Margaret Myers

The Renewal Project

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.