A local helping agency is asking people to go shopping – not for themselves but for children who need help getting ready to head back to school in September.
Salvation Army’s Gateway of Hope is hoping that the public will help kids feel that exhilaration that comes from having new school supplies to start the school year.
Even with technology, the supply lists have not become shorter and easier. They have become longer and more expensive. On top of the basic supplies of pens, pencils, markers, paper and binders; there are other items a student must purchase pertaining to their course load and curriculum.
Each summer the Gateway runs a school supply drive.
Based on previous school supply drives and current economics, the expectation is that the need will be for 800 to 850 children, said Andrea Voss, Gateway’s family services coordinator.
She’s been involved since she started with the Salvation Army here around 2005 when the school supply drive was a much smaller affair.
“We were doing maybe like 30 backpacks,” she said.
There are many families in the community that struggle to make ends meet and for years the local shelter has offered help with school supplies. She’s done some estimates on what it would cost to create these hundreds of backpacks.
“$25,000 and $30,000 maybe more depending on the price of stuff,” Voss said.
During the dog days of summer, people can pick up supplies that will be sorted into age appropriate bundles for children thanks to a cadre of volunteers. She said a lot of thought is put into assembling the backpacks.
“I want that child not to have to worry about what their supplies look like,” she said.
The school supplies are available for children from kindergarten through Grade 12. A downloadable list of the needed supplies are on the Gateway website. There’s a specific need for scissors for various ages, backpacks, glue sticks, pencil crayons, and pencil cases.
“Those are always things we don’t get enough of,” Voss noted.
She added that the need is expected to grow this year due to inflation and price increases.
“We ask that you help us by donating some or a variety of these items. This is a fun and engaging way to get your kids, service group, or other peers involved in giving back,” Voss said. “Providing these supplies frees up parent’s funds to be able to purchase the specialized items the kids need for class.”
She noted that donating money allows Gateway to purchase supplies that may not have been donated in sufficient quantities.
In addition to donations from the public, the school supply drive receives help from other sources, including local businesses, community churches.
“We don’t just put school supplies in the backpacks,” Voss noted.
The churches started a tradition of assembling age-appropriate toiletry packs as well as some fun toys, such as glow sticks for the youngest recipients.
The deadline to drop off donations of supplies or money is Aug. 15.
People in need of assistance can register with Gateway of Hope to receive children’s school supplies. Registration opens the week of July 18 and goes until the end of August (based on when first day of school is). In addition to personal information (name, address, phone number) registrants will need to provide child’s name, care card number, grade and school attending. Langley and Aldergrove residents can register in person or over the phone, and the children must attend a public school within the Langley School District.
The person registering must be the parent or guardian of the child and provide two pieces of ID (for the adult). Call 604-514-7375 or go in person to Gateway of Hope, 5787 Langley Bypass. Another option is to email Voss at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Voss said she receives feedback from the families of recipients and with the delivery method used because of COVID, the volunteers were able to see the reactions of the children, many who often dive right in to check out their new supplies.
One of the emails from a family said “The girls were all smiles when they received their school supplies.” Another read: “My children are so excited to use them.”
COVID didn’t stop the school supply drive over the past couple of years but did change how it’s done. In the past, families had to head down to a central distribution point. Distribution will be via delivery again this year.
“We’ve done it the last few years, and it’s just so easy,” Voss said.
And those involved seem to get just as much of a kick out of taking part as the kids.
“For me it’s like Christmas in July,” she said.
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