THE ISSUE: Rising costs of school supplies, coupled with higher poverty rates, adds a lot of stress on residents trying to secure back-to-school items.
LOCAL IMPACT: Blue prints' back2basics program is in its third year helping to fill the gap for area locals who need assistance with school supplies and hygiene items. The group is holding its annual backpack giveaway Aug. 12.
In its third year now, the Blue prints for back2basics program — is working to take some of the load off families overwhelmed by the financial hardship that back-to-school time brings.
Initiated by Blue prints founder Tiffany Walker, the program seeks to supply Pottawatomie County children with some basic tools they need — but struggle with getting access to — in time for the new school year to begin.
Blue prints is asking any residents willing to help to gather donations and drop them off at sites around Shawnee and Tecumseh.
The ever-rising cost of school supplies, coupled with greater student poverty makes filling the gap that much more daunting a task.
According to communitiesinschools.org, on average, parents can expect to pay:
$649 for elementary school children, a 1-percent increase compared to 2014;
$941 for middle school children, a 2.5-percent jump compared to 2014;
$1,402 for high school students, a more than 9-percent increase compared to 2014.
The National Center for Children in Poverty reports that about 15 million children in the United States — 21percent of all children — live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold — a measurement that has been shown to underestimate the needs of families. Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses. Using this standard, 43 percent of children live in low-income families.
Walker has partnered with local gym owner Gary Frazier, of 405 Fitness on Main Street downtown.
The duo has a goal of filling 1,200 backpacks with school supplies and hygiene items.
Walker is hoping to avoid leaving people empty-handed.
“Last year we gave away 650 backpacks and had to turn people away because we ran out,” Walker said.
She said last year's event — a large multi-organizational effort hosted by CPN — saw 2,400 locals show up for resources before school time.
“This year, we want to bring our event back downtown, where the need is,” she said. “We don't want transportation to be an issue.”
She said the City of Shawnee has been supportive of her program.
“They've been a huge help,” Walker said. “They donated the location and helped with permits — their help has been remarkable.”
The giveaway event will be at 10 a.m. Aug. 12 at Shawnee's Municipal Auditorium, at 401 N. Bell.
“We will be there until everything is given out,” she said.
Residents can receive a backpack for their children by bringing proof of residency from anywhere in Pottawatomie County — such as a current utility bill — and photo identification.
Walker said she's excited about the event.
She hopes to gain the needed donations by Aug. 7, in time to assemble them before the event.
Drop sites for donations are:
• All Nations Bank, 2023 Gordon Cooper Drive, Shawnee
• First United Bank, 912 E. Independence and 4439 N. Kickapoo, Shawnee
• YMCA, 700 W. Saratoga, Shawnee
• Richard's Drug, 324 E. Main, Shawnee
• 405 Fitness, 214 W. Main, Shawnee
• Department of Human Services, 1400 N. Kennedy, Shawnee
• Daylight Donuts, Tecumseh
For more information, call Walker at (405) 434-9420.
Blue prints is an organization that was birthed out of the program, Neighboring 101, which offers Getting Ahead weekly classes based on the Bridges out of Poverty.
Walker was among the first class of Bridges graduates, and went on to pioneer a second stage of continuing education by establishing a curriculum to propel Bridges students forward after graduation.
You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.