'Need to be there:' Whitefish Bay community raising money for crossing guards during school closure

WHITEFISH BAY -- Local schools remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving several employees without work. One community is coming together to raise money for employees who are the first people students see when they get to school -- crossing guards.

Beth Wagner

"It goes without saying that we need to be there for them," said Whitefish Bay parent Beth Wagner. "This is a ripple effect that so many of us aren't seeing."

As school buildings remain empty, so do the crosswalks. The pandemic has left those who work there without a job. When a Richards Elementary crossing guard expressed concern to Wagner, she knew she had to do something. So, Wagner began to raise funds through Facebook for the crossing guards she calls family.

"Not only are they helping them stay safe, they pump them up they get them excited to go to school," Wagner said. "They're such a big part of these kids' lives."

Erica Yewlett

Word of the effort traveled quickly, and Erica Yewlett, a parent at a different Whitefish Bay school, decided to do the same. So far, the two have raised more than $5,000 -- dividing the donations for the crossing guards. It can be a dangerous job, Yewlett said: "They really do risk their lives every day, I've seen some near misses by our schools."

"There's just constant communication going around making sure everyone is taken care of and doing what we can to make sure everyone's supported during this difficult time," said Michael Landgraf, principal of St. Monica School.

While school is out until further notice, families in Whitefish Bay continue to show their appreciation for school crossing guards -- hoping to ease their uncertainty one day at a time.

"They're an extension of their school life and our families, really," Yewlett said.

Organizers say they hope their efforts raise money for the crossing guards will spread to other communities to help those who are in need during this time.