Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

As need grows, communities work to collect school supplies

Damascus organizations join in to help families get ready for school

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Charles E. Shoemaker/The Gazette
Aaron Ochs, 12, of Damascus fills a backpack with donated school supplies.

Organizations and communities around the county are pitching in to help families who cannot afford school supplies send their children back to class with the needed folders, pencils and paper.

No child from a family in need in the Damascus area will start the school year without a new backpack and school supplies.

The Damascus Ecumenical Laymen's Association Inc. and Damascus Help got the word out early to the community that more and more families were requesting help.

Jennifer Settlemire, who coordinates the school supply drive, had requests from more than 220 families this year, a jump from last year's 185.

Damascus Help sends postcards to families that received Thanksgiving baskets asking if they have school-age children and need help buying their supplies. Other names come from school counselors, said Settlemire.

Clearspring Elementary School alone had 71 children who needed school supplies, she said.

Donations have been too numerous to count, but Settlemire is sure she has enough backpacks to ensure every child will have one.

"People in the Damascus-Clarksburg community are very generous," she said. "Every year I panic and every year we have enough."

In addition to donations dropped off at local businesses, the group received money for backpacks and money from Damascus Help for supplies. Frank Leradi of Laytonsville donated a hardcover book to add to the backpacks of every first- and second-grader, she said.

Other significant contributions came from Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Damascus, the Damascus office of Long and Foster real estate and Damascus Y-Women, which donated backpacks.

The school supply drive started years ago as a part of the social concerns ministry of St. Paul's Catholic Church. It has grown into a communitywide effort. Children in the church youth group sorted the supplies and packed and delivered the backpacks Monday.

Filled backpacks were delivered to school counselors. Families can pick them up before school starts or they will be given to children the first day of school.

Project Change

does its part to help

Olney-based Project Change recently concluded a school supply drive, the first one held by the youth organization.

"We heard of the anticipated increase in need via the Montgomery County Volunteer Center and decided to do what we could to help in keeping with the PC philosophy of giving back to the community whenever possible," Project Change program manager Dorothy Kane said.

Members placed collection boxes at several locations around town and also at Olney's National Night Out celebration Aug. 5.

The collection yielded two bins full of supplies, which were donated to the Housing Opportunities Commission office on Morningwood Drive, just down from the Project Change office.

"They were very pleased to receive them," Project Change Executive Director Robyn Holstein-Glass said. "It was a nice collaboration with them and since we are all working for common good, it is nice to be in it together."

Holstein-Glass said the organization hopes to do more marketing next year and collect even more school supplies.

MCPS collects

15,021 pounds of goods

The Montgomery County Public Schools Drive for Supplies celebration and distribution took place July 28 at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville.

According to collection data on the school system's Student Affairs Office Web site, 15,021 pounds of school supplies were collected this year. That includes 485 pounds of art supplies, 12 pounds of calculators, 5,318 pounds of binders and notebooks, 603 pounds of notebook paper (loose-leaf), 48 pounds of scissors, 2,056 pounds of spiral notebooks and 42 pounds of rulers.

The items were sorted by 86 student volunteers and five adult volunteers over 626 hours, the Web site says.

Drive for Supplies is an annual program to encourage students to donate used, but usable, school supplies at the end of the school year when they clean out their lockers, book bags and desks, according to an MCPS press release.

This year, 63 schools, along with several MCPS offices and outside businesses, participated in collecting supplies, the press release states.

The project has grown since it began in MCPS in 2000, the press release states. In 2007, supplies weighing 9,016 lbs. were collected and distributed to nonprofit agencies and county schools with a high number of low-income students.

Drive for Supplies was formed in 1999 by Kevin and Louise Newcomer, the founders of Learning Shop Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Wheaton, the press release states.

Back to School Jam planned in Rockville

The Lincoln Park Community Center in Rockville will hold its eighth annual Back to School Jam on Friday at Isreal Park at 357 Frederick Avenue.

Lincoln Park is collaborating for the first time with Mount Calvary Baptist Church and the Maryvale Elementary School Linkages to Learning program for one big event with entertainment and refreshments.

"In the past, we've always done three separate back-to-school giveaways and hit the same kids, so we thought we'd do one altogether," said Yvette Yeboah, assistant supervisor at the community center. "This way, we hit the needed community all at once."

Backpacks stuffed with school supplies will be given to families whose children are present and with proof of enrollment at a Rockville school, such as a report card or letter from the school. Backpacks are limited to up to four per family.

About 200 backpacks were donated by the Staples office supply store in Gaithersburg and the others will be purchased with monetary donations. Toys R Us is donating door prizes.

Haircuts will also be provided with a suggested $5 donation.

Representatives from some Rockville schools from elementary through high school will set up tables with information and to answer any questions parents may have.

For more information, call Lincoln Park Community Center supervisor Neal Owens at 240-314-8782.

Olney Girl Scouts

collecting supplies

Olney Girl Scout Troop 4058 is conducting a school supply drive through Aug. 28.

The items will be distributed to local charities for the homeless and disadvantaged in the community.

School supplies can be dropped off at Fletcher's Service Center, located at

18001 Georgia Avenue in Olney.

For more information, send an e-mail to akbrady@aol.com.