|Scores of families give, receive help to get students properly equipped|
|Written by Rick West|
|Wednesday, 17 August 2011 15:16|
Fran Brien, volunteer coordinator for ECHO in Janesville, sorts through a box of school supplies donated for the organization’s annual school supply drive. On Aug. 26, in conjunction with the McBuddies program, more than 1,000 Janesville students will receive a backpack filled with school supplies for the 2011-’12 school year. Similar school supply drives are held in other area communities, including Milton, Edgerton and Evansville. Rick West/staff.
(Read the story in the e-edition HERE.)
JANESVILLE — Depending on what grade their child is in and where they shop, most parents can expect to pay between $30 and $50 per child for school supplies. Add to that required school and athletic fees, transportation costs, clothing and shoes, and you can see how in this economy, it can be a time of extreme anxiety for parents. And, of course, the school supplies purchased this summer will have to be replaced before the school year is over.
That’s why several community organizations host annual school supply drives to provide school supplies to those families most in need.
“For the students to have the supplies they need to excel in the classroom, sometimes we need to depend on community members as well as businesses to help us get those supplies in the hands of the students,” said Brett Berg, coordinator of public information for the Janesville School District.
“I would bet there would be more of a need this year than years past.”
Again this year, ECHO in Janesville, in conjunction with the McDonald’s McBuddies program, is coordinating an effort to collect school supplies at Janesville-area businesses (see related graphic on Page 2.) A detailed list of needed school supplies is available online at www.echojanesville.org.
“Parents come into the ECHO office to preregister and tell us the number of kids, and what grades they’re in, and we get a printout of how many of each supply we need,” said Cheryl Maveety, client advocate at ECHO. “We try to give every kid a backpack.”
Registration continues through Friday, with distribution to families on Aug. 26 at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 302 N. Parker Drive, Janesville. Families must meet income guidelines to be eligible for the program.
Maveety said she’s concerned because the demand for ECHO’s services is up 20 percent overall this year, which means a lower budget for school supplies.
“It’s kind of a tossup — do we keep people in housing and give them food or do we give them school supplies?” Maveety said.
Last year, ECHO spent $9,000 buying school supplies, with $4,800 of that donated by the community.
“We pitched in $4,200 from our general fund, but we don’t have that this year,” Maveety said.
Even figuring a supply cost as high as $50 per child, a $4,000 budget deficit could mean that more than 80 children might not receive supplies.
Maveety said that makes school supply donations, and cash donations, more critical than ever this year.
“What happens is we may get a lot of pencils, but we don’t get a lot of watercolors, so we have to go out and purchase to fill in the gaps of what we don’t get,” Maveety said.
ECHO also is seeking volunteers to help with packing school supplies into backpacks and handing out supplies during the distribution. To volunteer, contract Fran Brien, ECHO’s volunteer coordinator, at (608) 754-5333.
Brien said nearly 300 volunteers help with the drive annually, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 22.
“That first morning we turn St. John’s community room into a school supply distribution center,” Brien said. “We sort (the supplies) and start counting to make sure we have enough for every student.”
Last year, more than 1,300 students received backpacks, with donated supplies and cash donations totaling more than $75,000, Maveety said.
For five years, Edgerton American Family Insurance agent David Pierce has been doing his part for his local school district by hosting a Stuff the Bus effort to collect needed school supplies.
“So that kid can walk into school the first day with his backpack full of stuff just like every other kid,” Pierce said of his motivation to help. “And nobody needs to know that kid got help and the other kid didn’t.”
Pierce parked a school bus, donated by the Riteway Bus Co., in the parking lot of his business for two weeks through Aug. 12. He coordinates the distribution through Edgerton Community Outreach.
“They have a list of all the kids that need help,” Pierce said. “I’m a parent of three and know how expensive this is every year.”
Supplies also are collected at three Edgerton churches (see related graphic) and distributed between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday at Central Lutheran Church in Edgerton.
“We have some miscellaneous supplies left over — crayons, pencils, erasers and tape,” Pierce added. “I organize those ... and deliver them directly to the schools after the school year has begun, so that the teachers have some excess supply.”
Similar drives are taking place in Milton and Evansville. The Milton Community Action Food Pantry is accepting donations through Monday.
“People have been very generous — we’ve got more crayons than we needed for the next two or three years,” said Carol Hulbert. “But there are other things we are still in need of.”
Parents can sign up at the pantry through Monday and will receive a postcard in the mail with details on what time they are to pick up their supplies between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday at the pantry on Hilltop Drive.
In Evansville, the annual school supply drive is coordinated by AWARE in Evansville, and will continue through Aug. 31.
AWARE program manager Julie Hermanson said people in the community are very tuned in to the need.
“They know this is a big time of the year for families, with a lot of anxiety, trying to get all the school supplies and clothes,” Hermanson said. “They’re very sensitive to that and always very generous.”
Many parents who have children of their own to buy for actually purchase double items in order to donate to help other families, Hermanson said.
“And we have some retired people who will call and actually go out and purchase even the more expensive or less likely to be donated items, such as scientific calculators,” Hermanson said.
Teachers pitch in, too
In addition to community donations, surveys show that teachers often use their own money to help supply their students and classrooms.
Berg, a former classroom teacher, said he often purchased folders and made sure he had extra pencils, spiral notebooks and colored pencils on hand.
“Sometimes, you can get that through the school budget, or in times like this, you have to supply those things yourself,” Berg said. “Certain teachers definitely go above and beyond when it comes to supplying things for the classroom to help the students.”
According to the National Education Association, teachers spend an estimated $1,000 of their own money each school year to keep needed supplies in the classroom.
When all the school supply distributions are complete later this month, the giving doesn’t stop.
Maveety said the extras from the McBuddies drive go to Janesville schools for use later in the school year.
“If there are new kids who come into school a few weeks later, they may need supplies, or halfway through the school year, supplies start running out,” Maveety said.
As organizers make a last big push to get donations, they say the many hours spent collecting and giving away supplies is well worth the effort.
“It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” Pierce said. “There are just a ton of kids that need help.”
|Last Updated on Thursday, 18 August 2011 20:32|