I love learning! I mean I really love to learn, and education is a passion of mine. So when I was asked to coordinate a “Back to School” drive several years ago, I jumped on the idea…and then another idea…and then another idea. After all, third times a charm right?
Our location in an area with a substantial number of refugee families whose first language is not English and whose economic status barely covers basics let alone extras – even for school. So I thought what better way to start a new school year off but with new school supplies. We hosted a school supply backpack drive for local employees and clients of ours to donate to a local area middle school and elementary school. The drive came complete with a school bus wagon to gather the necessary supplies and did we ever fill it – overflowing! When we delivered the backpacks, we were overwhelmed by the number of backpacks that had been provided by other organizations. Alright, so I knew the backpacks would not go to waste but strike that idea and let’s do something different next year.
Idea number two for year number two – socks, underwear, and sweats. After consulting with the counselors at the two schools, we were told: “hey kids will be kids and whether it is soaked clothes from playing in the snow, that occasional bathroom accident or a displaced family that frankly can’t afford anymore, these are necessities.” So, Employers Resource hosted a drive for socks, underwear, and sweats. We also collected money for gift cards for shoe stores and for the students who could not afford gym clothes. After all, who wants to stand out in a crowd of junior high students like the one not dressed down for gym class? It was a successful year, but again, it didn’t feel like that sweet spot. There is always next year.
Third times a charm! Mary Gersema, our COO is passionate about reading, and so this past year we held a book drive except that we collected money for books. We received money from local employees and clients, and the company matched whatever was raised. We then split the pot and gave a check to each school to help the librarians get books into the hands of kids who could not afford them. The elementary school conducted a reading challenge and students who reached a specific goal helped the librarian choose new books for the school library. The junior high was able to reach a group of English Language Learners with tutoring during the year, and the last session culminated in a Literacy Celebration. Parents and interpreters joined students in ‘shopping’ for books from Scholastic catalogs. When the books arrived and were handed out it was described as being like Christmas – nothing like a brand new book. This was the idea that charmed us all. Look at those faces!