Do you remember back-to-school shopping when you were a child? The lists, the trying on clothes, the quest for the perfect backpack. Or did you go to school when all we needed was a tablet, slate and a pencil? Either way, we never went to school empty-handed. Let’s MAD about school supplies.
This year more than 28 million children will go to school without the school supplies they need to complete the year. Read that again…
28 million children
They are not going to have the school supplies they need to finish class and homework. How much of the grade is homework where you live?
School supplies are not always cheap.
Fulfilling an average school supply list costs between $20 and $100, depending on the grade level of the child. Some high school students need a bit more than that to have everything they need for advanced classes.
Families living paycheck to paycheck struggle with these costs.
Some small towns need the tax revenue from back to school shopping to balance late summer budgets, especially in non-tourism towns.
Children who have the supplies they need to do their work are more confident. These children are less likely to be picked on by bullies who exploit poverty vulnerability. Self-confidence produces better academic achievement.
Poverty does not discriminate based on IQ. Some of the smartest children are born to parents who cannot afford to adequately equip them to succeed in school.
Low income children are less likely to have school supplies readily available at home. New markers, pencils and paper can get them excited to go back to school. A new backpack is as cool as having a new jacket.
Children who get better grades in school are more likely to be productive members of society, contribute more to their communities and raise children who are more successful. Giving the gift of a good education is a generational bequeath.
Made A Difference.
Whether you choose the personal, school or community approach, you can make a difference in the success of low income students where you live. These are the children who will become the doctors, firefighters, dentists, police, nursing home staff and community leaders of tomorrow.
1. Choose a family.
You can donate school supplies to a family. If you know of one through your workplace or house of worship, donate to them. If you do not personally know of someone, call the local school nearest you, the soup kitchen, women’s shelter, foster agency or a local house of worship. They will have lists of low income and vulnerable families.
2. Choose a school.
If you are not comfortable giving directly to a family, call the local school (elementary, middle or high school). Ask them which grades have students who need school supplies. Do not be surprised when the receptionist laughs and tells you all of them.
3. Join a community effort.
The Volunteers of America run campaigns in major cities to provide school supplies to needy children. Search “VOA” plus your town or county to find the nearest drive site for the Stuff a Bus campaign.
Each year, VOA delivers school buses to big box and office supply stores for patrons to drop off purchased school supplies. The goal is to fill the bus completely full. These items are donated to the local school district for distribution throughout the school system.
Other local entities take donations of supplies all year to give aid to low income families.
4. Gather your team.
Get together with your friends, family, team mates, neighbors, fellow worshipers. Pool your money and buy in bulk. You can make your money go further.
5. Go to the school’s website.
Get a list of school supplies for the grade levels you want to help. Print them. Lists are also available at big box and office supply stores.
6. Make your own list.
If you cannot find the lists on the school district’s website, purchase from the following list:
- One gender-specific backpack
- Six pocket folders
- Three wide-ruled, single subject notebooks
- Two packs filler paper
- One two-inch three-ring binder
- One calculator
- One package (10) medium ball point pens (blue or black)
- One package (3) medium red ball point pens
- One box colored pencils
- One box #2 pencils
- One box washable markers
- One pencil sharpener
- One one-foot ruler
- One pencil box or bag
For elementary school children in kindergarten through second grade, skip #3-8 and replace with the following:
- Two boxes (24) crayons
- One box (8) large crayons
- One package construction paper
- One elementary writing tablet
- One pink eraser
- One package (3+) glue sticks
- One pair safety scissors
Pack the backpack with the supplies.
7. Happily deliver.
Take your supplies to the bus, where available, and gladly hand it over to the volunteers. Some stores will have a bin inside the door to drop supplies to be transferred to the buses when they are scheduled to arrive.
Take your supplies directly to the school. Many are open now with a skeleton crew readying the halls for the children. They will be overjoyed to see you come bearing gifts.
8. Just send money.
School districts across America are taking donations earmarked for school supplies. If you know a teacher, administrator or aide, ask about the donation program for your district. With their tax advantage and discount, they can buy bulk supplies for less cost than individuals.
Mark your check memo line with student school supplies. Specify “student” if you do not want to provide office supplies for teachers and staff, but want to support children in need.
If you cannot afford to give, share your time organizing donating materials, delivering them to schools or organizing a drive for others to give.
School begins in most of the southern half of the United States in mid-August. The rest of the country begins immediately after Labor Day (first week of September). School supplies gathered now can be delivered to the schools to cut down the total number of supplies parents will need to buy for the children in the entire school.
Because each year, Americans donate school supplies, big box stores currently have school supplies for sale at the back to school prices not historically set until August. This means more for your dollar…now.
You DO Make A Difference!
By donating school supplies you are taking a burden off of a low income family, providing a positive back to school experience for a child and making a positive impact on your community now and in the future. You are leveling the playing field for a child.
Have you ever donated to a back to school campaign? Would you take the burden of back to school shopping away from a family in need? Will you MAD for a child by donating school supplies?
Author’s Note: I have participated in back to school drives since high school. Rode the buckboard right to the school house with the fixin’s. In 2002, a store in which I worked managed to fill three school buses with supplies. We had to take things out to get a driver IN to drive it away.
One year, I could only afford two backpacks. The principal of the school called a brother and sister into the office. Both were terrified they were in trouble the first day of school. I do not care how strong you are. Seeing a child cry when you hand them a backpack filled with new things will melt you. To date, the thank you note I received is one of my favorites.
(c) Red Dwyer 2012
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