Mom-led community effort raises $5000 for tools to keep students safe


File/The Daily Iowan

FILE - The Old Capitol is shown on Monday, July 25, 2016.

In the aftermath of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, a group of Iowa mothers have taken matters into their hands to help keep their children safe.

Melissa Mahon, a mother of three children in the Keosauqua public-school system, is an active member of her community and calls herself the “squeaky wheel” at School Board meetings. She has been involved in fundraising efforts for such items as park equipment, a community pool, and a new sports complex.

However, the tragedy on Feb. 14 spurred a different kind of fundraiser.

At their usual meeting point at a bus stop the next day, Mahon and her fellow mothers discussed their fears and frustrations in the current climate. Their conversation continued over Facebook messenger.

“It’s kind of the last straw,” Mahon said. “We’ve waited our time, and nothing’s changed.”

Mahon and her group decided to raise enough money to purchase devices that would help keep school children safe in the event of an active shooter. They reached out to members of the community, including teachers, parents, business owners, and other community members.

In one afternoon, the women raised the $5,000 needed to bolster 50 classrooms.

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These devices are manufactured by Fighting Chance Solutions, formed by a collection of educators and entrepreneurs in 2013 to build safety measures for schools.

Founder and President of Fighting Chance Daniel Nietzel said it hasn’t been the same in the past two weeks. He has worked more than 12 hour days to keep up with the new demand for his company’s products, which it sells to schools, universities, offices, and military bases in all 50 states.

“It’s overwhelming; people are really scared,” Nietzel said. “I haven’t experienced anything quite like this in the four years of running the company.”

Nietzel attributed the change in climate to the power of social media and video, harking back to the video of former NFL player Ray Rice assaulting his wife in an elevator and how its wide release shook the public and the league about domestic violence.

As their story gathered press, Mahon said, she received a number of calls and emails from teachers and parents from all over asking for the same kind of help.

“It’s almost heartbreaking,” Mahon said. “There are all of these moms and teachers out there, everyone’s kind of feeling the same thing, somehow.”

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As another measure of safety, the School District faculty employs the use of active shooter response training to be prepared for a violent situation.

Van Buren School District Superintendent Pam Ewell said the precautions and training are about “thinking on your feet.”

She appreciated the community fundraising. A parent and grandmother herself, she said, she has the same sense of immediate protectiveness.

For Mahon and the other women, their fight goes beyond bolstering their school’s defenses. With one victory in the books, they plan to start their own chapter of Moms Demand Action, a vocal, active group working toward revised gun-control laws.

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