By Paul Silverfarb
With summer vacation in full swing, students may find it difficult to believe that, in little over a month, thoughts of back to school will be in their heads yet again.
It is almost that time to pick out some new shoes, some stylish clothing and some backpack essentials in order to start the new school year.
For some students, however, going back to school creates a different problem. What they worry about is not having a backpack and school supplies at all because their families can’t afford them.
And, that’s just unacceptable for Carol Bloom, Reverend at Diamond Hill United Methodist Church. Bloom, along with Neighbor to Neighbor and the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich, is looking to make sure that all children in Greenwich have a first day of school with everything needed to be successful.
“The first day of school is exciting, but also stressful for families struggling to make ends meet,” said Nancy Coughlin, Executive Director at Neighbor to Neighbor. “No child wants to be the one who shows up without the right supplies, and no parent wants to send their children off knowing they don’t have everything they need. We want all students to be able to succeed, and that means having the tools to learn and also being confident and prepared. That’s where the school supplies being provided by Diamond Hill United Methodist Church and others come in.”
Bloom has once against started her annual backpack and supply drive that will last throughout the month of July. The goal for this year’s backpack drive is for 500 new backpacks to be donated.
“We have a huge goal this year,” said Bloom. “There will be 300 for the clients of the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich, and 200 of them are for Neighbor to Neighbor clients. This is something that we have done in previous years, and this year we are getting the word out because we want the whole Greenwich community involved. We are calling on other churches, civic organizations, businesses and anybody to try and get involved with this.”
For CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich’s Bobby Walker, Jr., getting backpacks in member’s hands means that families will have one less item to stress about come late August.
“We have Club members whose families cannot provide their children with the necessary supplies needed for school,” said Walker. “The Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich believes that every child in our town deserves to attend school with all the necessary materials. We are committed to making sure that our members begin school with smiles on their faces, butterflies in their stomachs and filled backpacks on their backs.”
Bloom said that around 15% of children in the Greenwich Public Schools are from income insecure families.
“What this means is that in the fall when school starts, the children that don’t have backpacks with the supplies that the school requests are at a double disadvantage. First, is that they don’t have the necessary supplies to enable their learning. Second, is that it becomes obvious in the classroom that they are the kids that don’t have what they need. So, there is an embarrassment level as well as an impediment to learning. We are trying to do this so that way all the children start off on equal footing on the first day of school.”
There are two ways to participate in the backpack drive. The first is to buy backpacks, supplies or both. For a list of supplies that comes from the schools, visit the Diamond Hill United Methodist Church’s Facebook page.
“The list of school supplies the public schools are now asking students to provide is quite long, and can cost $70 or more,” said Coughlin. “For families struggling to make ends meet, the cost is burdensome — even more so for families with more than one child. Many families live paycheck to paycheck, and this significant expense sometimes means other bills in September go unpaid. Last year a mom was so relieved when I gave her a new backpack for her child she broke down in tears.”
Collection bins for backpacks, supplies or both will be located at the front and side doors of the Diamond Hill United Methodist Church, First United Methodist Church, or at Little Pub in Cos Cob.
When it comes to backpacks, Greenwich schools say that children in kindergarten use 15-inch backpacks, while middle and high school students utilize 17-inch backpacks.
In addition to a 15-inch backpack, kindergarten supplies consist of one pack of colored pencils, one pack of construction paper, one tuck box of Crayola crayons, one large pink eraser, one folder, one medium glue stick, one wide-ruled marble notebook, a pencil pouch, a pencil sharpener, 12 wooden No. 2 pencils, a plastic 12-inch ruler, one pair of blunt tip scissors and one roll of tape.
For elementary school students, they need one bevel eraser, one pack of colored pencils, one pack of construction paper, one tuck box of Crayola crayons, a dictionary, one pack of 100-sheet wide-ruled filler paper, three assorted colors of two-pocket folders, a glue stick, a yellow highlighter, one wide-ruled marble composition notebook, a pencil pouch, a pencil sharpener, 12 wooden No. 2 pencils, a three pack of black gel pens with grips, one pack of white ruled index cards, a plastic 12-inch ruler, a pair of pointed-tip scissors, two one-subject wide-ruled spiral notebooks and one roll of tape.
In both middle school and high school, students are required to bring one bevel eraser, a 10-digit scientific calculator, a package of 12 colored pencils, one pack of construction paper, a dictionary, one pack of 100-sheet college-ruled filler paper, five assorted colors of two-pocket folders, a glue stick, graph paper, a yellow highlighter, a mini stapler, three one-subject college-ruled spiral notebooks, a pencil pouch, a pencil sharpener, 12 wooden No. 2 pencils, a three pack of black gel pens with grips, a plastic protractor/compass, one pack of white ruled index cards, a plastic 12-inch ruler, a pair of pointed-tip scissors and one roll of tape.
The second way to participate is by donating money. Both the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich and Neighbor to Neighbor have wholesale purchasing options available to them.
Last year Bloom went on a mission to see how much it would cost to buy supplies at a big box store, and she said she spent around $75.
“If you donate money, it can be given to Boys and Girls Club and Neighbor to Neighbor and they can do the purchasing,” Bloom said. “They can get way more for the $75 than you or I could.”
To donate money, people can send checks to Diamond Hill United Methodist Church, payable to the church and clearly marked ‘backpacks.’ From there, Bloom will immediately send the money out to both Neighbor to Neighbor and the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich.
“We want people to participate at a level that they can afford,” Bloom said. “We are looking for people to donate as much as they can, whether it’s just a backpack or just school supplies or both. Anything will be wonderful. I would love to see the community pull together to help the children.”