When Beth received a new backpack and brightly colored folders to start school last year, her face lit up “like it was Christmas,” recalled James, a social worker at an Indianapolis, IN school. For James, the experience of seeing a child benefit from a collaborative community sponsored school supply drive–Back Pack Attack–is unforgettable. According to James, Beth’s parents spend most of their income on special equipment for their daughter who has severe disabilities and must use a wheel chair. “There’s not much left over for extras, like new school supplies,” explained James.
Today, 46 percent of kindergartners enter school at risk for failure. One factor in this is many children go to school
each day without basic supplies like pencils, paper, calculators, crayons and backpacks. Of the nearly 37,000 students in Indianapolis Public Schools, an estimated 85 percent start school each year without the tools they need to learn. Before Back Pack Attack, teachers had to buy extra supplies out of their own pockets or the money was taken from already strapped school budgets. “Every day our kids come to school without pencils and half come without paper.
Every day we give out pencils and paper and if we don’t, the kids don’t have it,” said James. Like United Ways across the country, United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) and its partners engaged the community to deliver a much needed community service to children in public schools.
The Corporate Volunteer Council of the UWCI, Indianapolis Public Schools and other community partners came together to ask the community to donate school supplies for Indianapolis Public Schools students. UWCI guided the Back Pack Attack partners in recruiting collection sites and offering information and connections to the Indianapolis corporate community. With this help, the number of collection sites grew from seven in 1999 to 235 collection sites in 2006. The number of supplies also increased exponentially, from 5,200 school supplies collected in 1999 to nearly 400,000 supplies in 2006. UWCI estimates that Back Pack Attack is meeting the school supply needs of about 50 percent of the Indianapolis Public Schools students. With the help of corporate partners, UWCI is reaching closer and closer to meeting the needs of all 85 percent of students who need supplies.
Indianapolis Public Schools students are not alone. Because of poverty and other family challenges, many children across our country go to school lacking basic supplies needed to perform well. By working together with the community, United Way impacts the lives of children and families across the country. Your United Way contribution, in time or money, is an investment in children, and together we can achieve lasting results. It takes everyone in the community working together to create a brighter future.
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