In January, Lehigh’s Employee Relations Advisory Committee (ERAC) organized a GoFundMe campaign, that raised $2,713 for Bethlehem’s school crossing guards. The funds were presented to the Bethlehem Police Department by Officer Lora Martin on March 26.
Prior to Martin joining the Employee Relations Advisory Committee, she noticed a need for gear for the crossing guards.
Martin said she was driving by Hayes Street about a year ago and saw a crossing guard who was not wearing proper gear. She began thinking about what she could do to help.
Ashley Sciora, chair of the university’s Campus Engagement Committee, said the idea to raise money for the Bethlehem school crossing guards largely came from Martin.
“The crossing guard project was something that Lora [Martin] came to us with when we were talking about our spring calendar,” Sciora said. “(She) explained that she noticed this need, and felt really strongly about doing something to help.”
In order to better understand the guards’ needs, Martin reached out to BPD Lieutenant Robert Kieffer.
“Lieutenant Kieffer explained to me that there was no money in their budget to cover safety gear and really liked the idea for a fundraiser,” Martin said.
Awareness for the cause was raised via social media. Much of the original outreach was done through the Employee Relations Advisory Committee, which has the ability to send emails to the entire Lehigh University community.
Sciora said community members were asked to use their personal networks and try to help spread the word further.
According to Sciora, the response from Lehigh was strong. The fundraiser ended up raising half of the total amount after one email to the campus community.
Although the fundraiser did not raise enough to completely outfit all crossing guards, the funds are being spent on gear that the city does not normally provide.
“We are shifting gears and providing the guards with what they would normally need the most. One of those items is a really good raincoat, something that the city of Bethlehem does not normally provide,” Kieffer said. “Obviously we want those dollars to go as far as possible so we’re going to get the best raincoats that we can get and outfit all the crossing guards that we have.”
Kieffer expressed enormous gratitude for the efforts of Martin and the rest of the Employee Relations Advisory Committee.
“Being a crossing guard is not the easiest job and does not pay that well,” Kieffer said. “I can tell you that most of the crossing guards do this job because they love the students and the community. Most of them have been doing this for a long time and are extremely dedicated. To see that, somebody else has taken notice and an interest in them means a lot.”
Martin wants to expand the scope of the fundraiser if there is another opportunity to raise money for the crossing guards.
“If we do something like this, again, I want to try to get Moravian and their community involved,” Martin said. “I know we were focused on the South Side but I really wanted to make sure the fundraiser was even across the board, and someone didn’t feel like they were left out.”