More Than Backpacks


Yesterday, many local students began another new school year. I keep thinking about all of the local children that are in need of material supplies and additional supports they do not have.

This year I had the privilege to play a small part in trying to address some of our local needs. I am writing this not to highlight my involvement, but as an attempt to highlight MANY people who are working together to positively impact the community around us. These stories of positive impact are shared less often than the negative happenings. I think it is important to see the positive stories, too!

Countless volunteers pulled together their resources to place school supplies and backpacks into donation collections. Little hands, big hands, black hands, brown hands, white hands, wrinkled hands, and brand new smooth hands.

The collections were transported by volunteers to a Building Families Office. Additional volunteers met, sorted, organized, and wrote notes to each child.

Then, volunteers distributed the prepared backpacks to school personnel so a child may have what they need to start the FIRST day of school.

A child such as:

An 8 year old girl who is placed in a second grade class, despite having no record of her current grade level. Her mom arrived early in the morning to bring her to school. Her mom was unable to read or write and the overwhelmed school secretaries did their best to gather as much information as possible with a line of 25 other parents who were there to register their children on the first day of school. The girl tried her best to brush her hair and to put on an outfit that fit. The girl didn’t know a single person in the school but appreciated the warm smiles. A PPW referral was made, but it will take days before they can begin to work on this case. These are days that this little girls does not have, BUT today she is ready for school! Mom is ready for school today! They had to take the public bus to school because they didn’t know any information about the school bus system and mom had two more children with her not of school age!

Despite all of this, the little girl is finally registered and is placed into a class. This is the 8th new class room she has been in, in three years. The teacher quickly identifies a need and requests supplies for the child. A warm friendly smile delivers all the supplies she needs. Not only supplies, but also a note of encouragement, which was read to her by her teacher!

“Wow this place is amazing!” she thought. Maybe now I can share with a trusted adult the abuse that I endured at our previous home. I am going to share how much I liked my old therapist. I am going to share that we moved states away from our old home because my mom didn’t want anything bad to happen to me again. I am going to have a hard time sitting still in class sometimes because my brain likes to think about other things. I am going to have some days when keeping a calm voice with my peers is really hard. But, I know I am welcome in this place. I know there are adults here who care.

Another child such as:

A 6 year old boy who’s Dad was waiting all summer for this day.

Last week we had no food left in the house, but dad said, “Just wait next week and you will get breakfast at school.” He gave us some dry cereal for dinner each night because that is all he had left. He doesn’t make a lot of money but it’s enough to support my brother and I. At least until my mom comes back. She’s in jail again. I don’t know why she’s there this time. She says she’s trying really hard to get better, but she hasn’t been able to come home for two years. 

Dad prayed with us this morning. He said, “The Lord will provide.” He showered us, gave us fresh haircuts, and put on our nice clean outfits. We walked the two miles to school. I can’t wait to see my teacher from last year! She always smiles and hugs me. I can’t wait to see my old friends. But, they are all going to have new clothes and new supplies. I miss my mom. I wish she could take my picture like the other kids. I wish my dad AND mom were here. I am very sad today. I start to cry when we approach the door. Then, I run towards home. I don’t want to go in there, it’s too hard sometimes. My dad picks me up and brings me back. I scream and cry. A warm familiar face comes to help. I start to throw books off of the bookshelves, I try to hit anyone that comes close to me, and then I fall asleep.

I need to rest before I try this again. I start to feel better and start to help clean up the mess I made. I’m still hungry. I am happy my dad saved breakfast for me to eat. Finally, an hour after school has started I feel ready. A kind person gave me a back pack with everything I need! I can’t wait to show my friends! I go to class with a big smile on my face and feel ready to start this new school year!

***These students are inspired by real stories. They are not meant to represent a single student, but rather highlight some of the types of issues young children in our community may be facing.***

If you would like more information about family friendly volunteer efforts, PLEASE contact me!