The Campbell River Women’s Resource Centre (CRWRC) is again gearing up for their annual school supply drive, where they gather and distribute basic school supplies to families in need.
Back-to-school can be a struggle for some in our community, and program coordinator Marnie McLaughlan and the CRWRC just want to do what they can to help.
“All kids deserve to start a school year with a new, fresh start, and they need the supplies to be able to do that,” McLachlan says. “I can’t think of anything much more awful than starting school that first day you look around and everyone has the supplies they need and you don’t.”
They’ve been running the program for “about 15 years, formally,” McLaughlan says, and have seen an increase in need recently.
“In the last couple of years we’ve been serving approximately 400 kids per season. We can’t provide all the school supplies for them, but they each get a bag that would have some grade-appropriate stuff in it. They just need to tell us what grade they need, and we give them a bag.”
It’s not just the cost of school supplies that hits low-income families in the fall, but it’s an additional cost when families are already struggling with others, McLachlan says.
“They’re also putting new shoes on their kids’ feet, and hopefully some nice new clothes for school, so its the combination of all those costs coming at the same time, then multiply that by the number of children in any given family. If you’re the working poor, that just becomes an insurmountable mountain. So anything we can do assist that … it may free Mom and Dad up to buy a child a new pair of shoes.”
In addition to the general school supplies, this year the Altrusa Club – one of the CRWRC’s partners in the project – will also be supplying age-appropriate books for children to choose from when they come to pick up their supplies.
The program works on a first come, first served basis, but there have been years when they have gathered enough supplies for everyone who needs it and then some, thanks to donations from the community andy partnerships with retailers and other organizations.
They are always looking for donations for the program, and they have a list at the centre of things people can go buy and donate to the cause. They also accept cash donations which they will add to the pool of funds from which they buy bulk supplies to at a discount to distribute to those in need. Contributions of more than $25 are eligible for a tax receipt.
If you know a family that could use the help before school starts up, let them know the donations, once gathered, will be distributed between the old Courier Islander office and Investors Group, across from the Community Centre on Cedar Street.
And no, they won’t need to prove their need to receive a bag of supplies.
“When we first started this, there was a debate about using a needs test, but we decided that these families were facing huge barriers to accessing their basic rights, such as school, and we didn’t want to be another barrier, another hoop, that they needed to jump through.”
McLaughlan says the people that are impacted by the program appreciate it, even years later.
“One of the things it’s been nice to see over the years is the number of people who come back saying, ‘two years ago, three years ago, you helped with school supplies for my kid. Here’s $40. Here’s a bag of school supplies.’ We see a lot of that, which is really nice.”
Donations can be made at the CRWRC office at the bottom of Dogwood Hill on the main floor of the Rose Harbour Transition House. More information can be found at crwomen.ca.