In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting deaths, we at first were stunned and speechless. Then, many in the PTOs community started doing what they so often do—looking for ways to help.

Here are some suggestions for helping the families of Newtown, Conn., as well as your own communities.

1. Contact your school administration to see how you can assist their efforts in working with your school community. PTOs and PTAs are in a special position to help because they know how to organize and reach out to families. The administration may need help in disseminating school safety information and reminders about such procedures as lockdown drills. Find out if the school principal would like you to get this info out on your own channels such as your newsletter, as well as your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

2. Reach out to parents in your community (you may already be hearing from them) to see if there is interest in holding a collection or somehow honoring the children and adults from the Sandy Hook community. Line up to your go-to people who can get things done quickly and see if you can do a holiday collection.

There are several organizations in Newtown, Conn., that are accepting donations to help the victims’ families, including Newtown Youth and Family Services, which can be reached at 203-426-8103. Another group accepting donations is the Newtown Parent Connection, Inc., which you can reach at or 203-270-1600.

Also, this article from the West Hartford News has additional information on how and what to donate.

3. Consider organizing a quick project to express appreciation and thanks to teachers and staff at school. You were likely going to do something like this anyway (or maybe already have). But simple and brief expressions of caring will have such special meaning now.

We have many gift ideas on our File Exchange for teacher appreciation that could make for sweet and simple holiday gifts. Also, this article provides several suggestions about how to show teachers how much they mean to you.

4. Gather resources on helping kids and families cope with tragic news. Many organizations are releasing information on how to talk to kids that would be useful to your families. School Family columnist Livia McCoy, a teacher who works with children with learning disabilities, says children—and adults—will process this tragedy in different ways.

Here are some other resources that offer good suggestions:

5. After the holidays, consider a community service or outreach program to add to your winter and spring calendars. Your community may be feeling helpless right now in the face of such horrible sadness and doing something—taking action to help others—will help your community heal as well. These articles have several ideas for projects:

6. Finally, just be available to families as needed. Do you have a meeting before the end of the year? Scrap the usual agenda if it makes sense and just let people talk. Giving parents and kids a sense of connection is perhaps the best thing any of us can do right now.


Update:  Check out our new blogpost with additional resources for helping the Sandy Hook community here .