The third annual School Supply Provision is a unique direction in primary and secondary school assistance whose intent far exceeds the giveaway of pens, pencils, rulers, notebooks and crayons to deserving students as they prepare for their return to the classroom.
Organized by The Refuge Community Centre headquartered in East Cleveland, and which partners with several local businesses and churches, the School Supply Provision is an original concept. New backpacks are filled with a variety of school supplies donated by project partners and individuals, and these packed packs are made available to area families who have registered for assistance.
It is not a handout. Families must qualify for the help and this is determined through a series of guidelines determined through The Refuge, one of several community-oriented nonprofits operating from the Family Support Center in the Blythe Avenue neighborhood. The center’s primary outreach is the families of East Cleveland — hence, its location in the former Blythe Elementary School building — but its doors are open to any area family in need.
Although the fee for filled backpacks is minimal, it is not free. Families must pay $1. The proceeds go into a Refuge fund specified for the purchase of school supplies for next year’s program.
Why a fee? And why just a dollar?
The fee helps to teach accountability, builds self-esteem among struggling parents, teaches young families to embrace ownership in the lives of their children and empowers them to be providers. The token amount helps to keep the program afloat for next year so that it may reach out to additional families, some of them new to the neighborhood and who are unfamiliar with agencies like The Refuge.
Kelli Kyle, director of Community Development for the nonprofit, sees the School Supply Provision initiative through the eyes of a visionary.
“What I like most about this program is that the kids get to see Mommy and Daddy paying for the backpack and the school supplies,” she told our newspaper. “It’s something that many families might take for granted, but at The Refuge it means everything for the children to see their parents doing this. It teaches the kids just as it teaches the parents. Everyone shares in the gain. Everyone learns a lesson — that life is not a giveaway; it requires work, and some give and take.”
Still growing in its outreach, the School Supply Provision is a heartwarming idea.
It’s about empowerment.
It’s about ownership.
It’s about providing for others.
It’s about taking responsibility.
It’s about making education available to kids who are most at risk.
Teaching families to take control of their lives is what The Refuge Community Centre is all about. Now operating in its third year on Blythe Avenue, The Refuge has used this teaching concept in another of its programs. At last year’s “A Refuge Community Christmas,” the program not only made toys available to qualifying parents for their kids, but also held a special tent sale in which items could be purchased at discount. The proceeds will be used for the same program this December.
Families that qualify for the School Supply Provision may contact The Refuge at 423-584-5211. Only one day remains for registration — Wednesday, Aug. 1, from 9 a.m. to noon.
Distribution of the backpacks filled with school supplies will take place Saturday, Aug. 4, from 2 to 4 p.m. at The Refuge. Last year, 223 backpacks were given out.
Anyone wishing to donate supplies for the program will find collection barrels at T.J.Maxx, New Covenant Church of God, Durkee Road Church of God of Prophecy, Berean Baptist, SkyRidge Medical Center, Southern Adventist University in Ooltewah and at The Refuge office.
Any outreach that teaches is one that gives the most.