RICHMOND, Va. -- A week after Superintendent Jason Kamras announced Richmond Public Schools would be closed for an additional two days the first week of November for teachers' mental health, an RPS employee and dozens of businesses are taking that a step further to rally around educators.
"I knew the announcement was coming, but reading the actual superintendent's words in the RPS direct, I started to cry," said Margo Buchanan Tacey, Manager of Trauma Response Strategy for Richmond Public Schools, as she recalled the moment she learned RPS would be closed the first week of November.
"I was just relieved that it was acknowledged. That, yeah, teachers may not be 100% right now, and he’s doing something about it," she said.
But Buchanan wanted to take that a step further.
"And then my second thought was, 'we have to do something to rally around them,'" Buchanan said. "I immediately went to my supervisor and was like, 'I have an idea.'
That idea? Reach out to several Richmond businesses about offering discounts to teachers to help support a week of mental health and wellness from Nov. 1 through Nov. 5.
"I thought if I could get just 10 businesses, organizations to say, 'Hey, we appreciate you. And because we appreciate what you do, we give you a discount on our services this week,' I would be happy," Buchanan said.
Buchanan began reaching out to business Saturday. Within just three days, more than 40 businesses had confirmed.
"It spread like wildfire," said Buchanan. "They responded with their own offers, which range from a 10 to 30% discount to free services and free admission, free concert tickets, I mean all sorts of cool stuff."
Buchanan said she focused on three categories of businesses: arts and entertainment, health and wellness, and food and beverage.
"Really that whole week to be framed as a wellness week. A mental health week to take care of yourself, have fun, be with each other, do something to care for your mental, spiritual, physical, whatever you need right now."
The discounts would include everything from yoga to massage, art, and dance, to food and wine.
"I think the email that got forwarded to me said what are your thoughts on this? And my email back was, 'I think it’s awesome and we should definitely do it," said Bobby Kruger, Operator and Co-Owner of Brambly Park.
The winery was just one of the businesses participating. Kruger said even some of his employees were educators.
"It was just nice to be able to say, 'Yeah. Not only do we want to do this, but we want to do a deep discount and something that really says we care about you guys and we’re thankful for what you do," said Kruger. "They’re taking care of our kids, and I hope they get a chance to take care of themselves."
For Buchanan, it was that kind of response that showed her how much the community cares.
"The community is held. The community is supported, and people appreciate RPS and what they’re doing. And I don’t think it gets said enough to anyone how appreciated they are especially during this time," Buchanan said.
She added that other businesses interested in participating could reach out to her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the list of participating businesses, click here.