MANOR, Texas (KXAN) — One of the biggest challenges for families like the Carrs, and many others living in Manor, Texas, is public transportation. Manor is a growing town of nearly 14,000 people nestled on the outskirts of the Austin metroplex between that city and Houston. It’s there that the Manor Schoolhouse Foundation non-profit and corporate partners are working together to keep families moving during the pandemic.

The Carr family, from left: Ke’anna Carr, Keshay Carr, Kayla Carr, Kiera Carr and Kenyatta Carr, center (Courtesy Carr Family)
The Carr family, from left: Ke’anna Carr, Keshay Carr, Kayla Carr, Kiera Carr and Kenyatta Carr, center (Courtesy Carr Family)

“At that time, I was having a little car difficulties and Manor doesn’t have a bus route that goes out to where I live at and it’s difficult to get to a bus ride station area,” said Kenyatta Carr.

The Manor Schoolhouse Foundation became a lifeline for Kenyatta Carr and thousands of other families seeking help with transportation and so much more. Some relied on the Foundation for basic survival.

“Families are losing their jobs,” said Becky Lott, director of the Manor Schoolhouse Foundation. “Families were without food — families who really didn’t know where to turn.”

The three-year old Foundation was originally created to raise funds to help students in the Manor Independent School District through academic enrichment, classroom innovation and educational specialty centers. But in March, the Foundation had to shift its focus completely and create the COVID-19 Relief Fund.

“We felt like we needed to do something, so we created an opportunity for donors, investors, or individuals to contribute dollars to the foundation and boy, it turned out very positive,” Lott said.

Community and companies step up

Donors gave $130,000, including a big $100,000 boost from Samsung.

Lyft ridesharing service was another one of the many companies to step up. Through a LyftUp program grant to the Foundation, it’s providing ride credits to families like the Carrs and others who needed it most.

“This program helped us get to Walmart and helped me get to work because I work on 32nd street and that’s coming from Manor all the way to Austin, middle central area, so it’s really been a blessing for me,” Carr said.

The LyftUp program helped provide ride credits to people in Manor, Texas (Courtesy Lyft)
The LyftUp program helped provide ride credits to people in Manor, Texas (Courtesy Lyft)

Max Loosen, Lyft regional director, said the company wanted to expand transportation access to those who need it most. They didn’t want a lack of a ride to be a barrier for “upwards mobility,” he added.

Reliable and dependable transportation has been lifeline.

“This will allow for the families to access needed healthcare, get to the grocery store, apply for jobs, go for job interviews, all those social services that are contingent on transportation,” Lott said.

Collaboration helps hundreds of families

Transportation isn’t the only service that the Foundation is assisting families with. It realized there were other social service needs it could help relieve, like water, electricity and food. So the Foundation established a hotline for families to call if they needed additional help.

“Every day, families are calling our number and standing outside our door asking for financial assistance and we’ve been able to collaborate with the district social workers, counselors, parent liaisons to all come together for the families in need,” Lott said.

  • Workers help sort and distribute food to families in need in Manor, Texas (Courtesy Manor Schoolhouse Foundation)
  • A Manor Schoolhouse Foundation food distribution event (Courtesy Manor Schoolhouse Foundation)
  • A woman helps back a bag full of food to be distributed through the Manor Schoolhouse Foundation's program (Courtesy Manor Schoolhouse Foundation)

Working with nearly a thousand families since March, the Foundation has provided boxes of food, hundreds of H-E-B grocery store and Walmart gift cards, and more than 3,000 school supplies that were distributed to families and school children across Manor ISD.

Helping families is how the non-profit says it stays true to its goal of seeing kids succeed but as COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise, Lott says its work isn’t done.

“Our foundation will continue to talk about this because our original mission was not to raise money for COVID-19 efforts but we also want to make sure students are in school and that they’re learning, that they’re engaged, that they have electricity and water- those essential services are critical to learning,” said Lott.

The Foundation says it will continue to asses family needs as the pandemic continues and part of that means more money and donors to keep those donations coming in.

Families needing assistance in Manor can call the hotline at call the 512-278-4095 or visit its website.

Partnering with the national non-profit Solutions Journalism Network, Nexstar stations nationwide are telling unique stories about how the pandemic has exposed inequities for students and the solutions some groups have found to bridge that gap.