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August 08, 2013

The kindness of strangers: help a kid gear up for school


by Connie Matthiessen, Associate Editor

Back to school may be the second biggest shopping season of the year, but my family usually doesn’t join the stampede. My kids aren’t big shoppers, and neither am I; besides, times are tight. Someone will inevitably need a new pair of shoes or a hoodie; I’ll pick up socks, a few shirts, the school supplies their teachers request, and leave it at that.

But I’m bracing for this year to be different. My daughter grew at least six inches over the last year, and she’s starting high school – a combination that amounts to a back-to-school perfect storm.

It’s only the beginning of August, and I’ve already heard comments like these:

“I don’t have one pair of shoes that isn't falling apart.”

All my jeans are too tight.”

And this mournful wail: “I have nothing to wearrrrrrrr!”

She’s exaggerating of course — although it’s true that she’s outgrown many of her favorite clothes, and she badly needs a warm jacket. But it makes me wonder what it would be like if I couldn’t afford to get her a pair of jeans that fit, or a backpack to replace the one with the torn strap. Or the family budget was too tight to purchase the binders and pencils and notebooks she’ll need on the first day of school.

Back-to-school season of giving

This is the case for many school kids — 16 million, by some estimates — in the U.S.  This crisis has turned the back-to-school season into a season of need — and, fortunately, of giving.  Around the country, organizations, schools, churches, and individuals are donating clothing and school supplies so low-income kids can start the school year with plenty of pencils and notebooks — and maybe even a brand new outfit or two.

A few examples:

How you can help

To give a child a backpack full of basic school supplies, contact Feed the Children.  You can learn more about similar projects in your area by searching “back to school donations” and the name of your city in your Web browser.

These back-to-school efforts are inspiring; they’re also a poignent reminder, if anyone needs one, of how many children in the U.S. live in poverty — 16.4 million or 23 percent in 2011 (and remember that "poverty" is defined as income below $22,811 for a family of two adults and two children; many more Americans who don't fit this definition are, by any measure, very poor) — not just during the back-to-school season, but all year round.


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Another great charity that keeps kids in school is Shoes That Fit. Simply by picking up a pair of shoes on sale at Payless and donating them, kids are able to attend school. Kids without shoes are more likely to miss school, or if they wear shoes that don't fit, find it hard to concentrate.

I also always pick up those 1 cent, 5 cent, 10 cent school supplies and donate a bunch to the school. Kids without supplies can't do without and either teachers have to pick up the slack or the entire class suffers.

Make sure that you are aware of the local charity drives that are affiliated with community outreach in order to refer struggling families. They can get information on community services available to them and the kids will come out with a back pack and shoes or new outfits.

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Thanks so much, Angel! Id love to hear about other programs like these around the country, so keep them coming. This just in from Lauren Foreman, education reporter at the Santa Maria Times:http://santamariatimes.com/news/local/education/article_fe93c4c8-ff1f-11e2-a7ba-0019bb2963f4.html

In Los Angeles there is a charity called Rainbow Pack that helps kids at two local schools by giving every one of the students a backpack with school supplies on the first day of school so they can do there homework all year long. The website is http://rainbowpack.wordpress.com

The extra backpacks go to kinds in foster care or are transition in the foster system who need supplies.

Connie, nice post to make people help kids who are really in the great need of it! By making these kids back to school with a smile of having all, you actually provide an effective citizen to the nation. And when the cause is noble the ultimate success is there in the end. Keep it up!

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