For many children, the first day back to school is an exciting one. Students are ready to take on the year with new haircuts, backpacks, school attire and supplies.
But for less fortunate children, whose families are unable to afford these things, the first day back to school can be a little more daunting.
In an effort to make sure that all children throughout south Florida feel ready and confident for the new school year, many local organizations are holding Back to School Drives this fall. Here are just a few of them.
Urban Youth Impact – Back 2 School Blast
Founded in 1997, Urban Youth Impact’s mission is “to love, equip and empower inner-city youth and their parents (in the Tamarind Avenue corridor and surrounding area in West Palm Beach, Riviera Beach and Boynton Beach) to fulfill their God-given purpose.”
One program offered through Urban Youth Impact is The Leadership Academy (TLA), which serves up to 150 students in grades K-9 after school, daily, and offers tutoring, computer-based literacy learning, faith-based instruction, life-skills and character building lessons.
Children who participate in the Leadership Academy are given the opportunity to receive a new backpack and school supplies at the Back 2 School Blast, located at Urban Youth Impact on North Australian Avenue in West Palm Beach on Saturday, August 5th from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Parents come to the event with their children,” said Kristen White, Back 2 School Blast Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator. “There’s a kids’ zone in the backyard with face painting, a DJ and a bounce house.”
As children play outside, parents walk through the school supply store with volunteers who help them pick out the necessary items for the upcoming school year.
“A lot of times when we were children and it was a new school year, we looked forward to going school shopping and showing up on the first day,” White said. “A lot of children don’t look forward to that new day of school because they have uniforms with holes in them.”
“By having this event we can provide school supplies for the kids who don’t have the resources and bless them while helping to bring our community closer,” explained White.
Drop off donations at Urban Youth Impact. Any and all $50 gift cards are appreciated, but Old Navy cards are suggested so that parents can purchase new uniforms for their children.
No time to drop off? Visit urbanyouthimpact.com/back-2-school-blast-donate/ and donate online. Click the link for needed school supplies, or shop the Amazon Wish List. Donations after the event are always welcome.
Sheridan House – Back to School Drive
Located in Davie, Sheridan House, which will celebrate 50 years of helping children next year, serves the community through various parenting and counseling programs, as well as residential programs for middle-school-aged children. In addition, the single parent ministry serves over 3,500 mothers and children each year.
The single mom’s ministry was founded in the early 80’s by Bob Barnes, when he started distributing dented food cans that had been donated from Publix to single moms.
“It started out with a little food pantry,” said Amy Adler, Single Parent Ministry Volunteer Coordinator, “and (Barnes) realized that (single mothers) needed more than just food.”
Today, the program offers intensive training in areas such as finances, parenting, resume preparation and interviewing skills, as well as meal planning on a budget.
“Our goal is to equip the single moms to succeed in life,” Adler said. “Rather than offer them a hand out, we offer them a hand up.”
For mothers involved in this training, the Sheridan House offers the Back-to-School event on August 12th at their main campus, located in Davie at 1700 South Flamingo Road.
“We anticipate about 350 children that will be blessed with school supplies,” Adler said. “They also get gift certificates for haircuts and shoes.”
“These moms are living paycheck to paycheck,” Adler explained. “When school comes around it adds so much stress to think that they need to spend 200 dollars on school supplies. The Back-to-School-Drive takes a big burden off the mothers and their children so that they can just focus on their families and basic needs.”
Visit sheridanhouse.org/web/event/back-to-school-drive/ to check out the needed school supplies, and drop off items before Friday, August 11th. Contact Amy Adler at 954-954-583-1552 to set up a drop off time.
4KIDS of South Florida – Back to School Drive
For over 19 years, 4KIDS of South Florida has been working collectively with committed churches, corporations, foundations and individuals in the Treasure Coast, Palm Beach and Broward counties to make a difference in the lives of foster care children while fulfilling their mission of “Providing Hope…For Kids in Crisis.”
“When there is no other family member available and (the children) get removed from home because of abandonment, abuse or neglect, (foster parents) parent them like their own until they can be reunited with a family member or parent,” said Marie Labranche, Foster Care Director at 4Kids of South Florida.
“We recruit, train, license and support foster parents to meet the needs of the children that are coming into foster care,” said Labranche.
One event which helps meet these needs is the Back to School Drive, which takes place on July 29th for Palm Beach foster care parents, held at Journey church in Lake Worth, and on August 5th for Broward foster care parents, held at Christian Life Center.
Hoping to donate? Visit 4kidsofsfl.org/2017schooldrive and fill an age-appropriate backpack with items from their shopping list. Drop off at the 4KIDS Broward office, 2717 West Cypress Creek Road, Ft. Lauderdale. Donations of new clothing and underwear are also welcome throughout the school year.
“When we say the word orphan, we’ve trained ourselves to believe that an orphan lives in another country,” Labranche concludes. “But really in south Florida we have an orphan crisis happening in our own backyard. It’s important that our community takes care of our own.”
Chrissie Ferguson is a freelance writer and the mother of three boys. She is also a middle school writing teacher at Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach. Follow her on Twitter @gatorchriz1