BELFAST—Every table in the conference room at Waldo Community Action Partners is filled with brand new folders, pens, pencils, notebooks, backpacks and lunch packs—just waiting to be taken home.
One hundred and sixty Waldo county children in need are coming in on a Saturday morning, August 10, to collect their free school supplies. Each child gets to wander the rows of tables and take one item to stuff into his or her new backpack.
The WCAP School Supply Giveaway is in its third year, thanks to a grant the agency received, along with a donation of school supplies from Athenahealth, totaling more than $5,000 in school supplies to give away. The supplies range from pre-K to high school, with smaller children receiving crayons and a pencil pouch, while older teens have their pick of protractors, binders and even combination locks for their lockers.
“Receiving donations for combo locks, for example, really helped us out,” said WCAP Community Partnerships Coordinator Amanda Simmons. “Many school lockers don’t have locks that come with them and these can be expensive items.”
The program is so popular, that even after the first 74 families who were able to get an appointment, there were still 36 families on the waiting list, hopeful that some supplies would be left over. The agency can’t accommodate any walk-ins today as all of the supplies are already assigned.
According to an NBC News Report, back-to-school supplies can cost as much as a mortgage. The supply list for an elementary school student costs about $650, according to the annual Huntington Bank's Backpack Index. The story presented more sobering realities: “A middle-school student might run $1,000; up from $525. And sending a fully equipped high-schooler off to class can cost nearly $1,500 — compared to $800 just 10 years ago.”
Last year’s giveaway “cleaned us out,” said Simmons. “The parents are just so grateful for this; it gives their children the leg up they need in school and I had one little boy hug his backpack filled with new supplies last year tell me he was so excited to have a full backpack and to go back to school. It gives them pride.”
WCAP is looking for monetary donations to benefit more children next year in next year’s School Supply Giveaway which can be sent through their secure Paypal page. WCAP is able to purchase many of the supplies wholesale, in bulk, to stretch funds and serve more families.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org