Even more families in need will be stepping forward over the next couple of days as the Cleveland nonprofit organization anticipates exceeding 300 requests by Wednesday’s deadline for registration, according to Kelli Kyle, director of Community Development for the group.
Distribution of school supplies to registered families who have qualified for this type of assistance will take place Saturday, Aug. 4 at the Family Support Center. Wednesday is the final day for registration. Hours are 9 a.m. to noon.
The School Supply Provision initiative is a component of The Refuge mission which targets neighborhood families in need through a series of self-help projects aimed at financial literacy, computer instruction, job search assistance, self-esteem, insurance instruction, Spanish literacy, CPR certification, neighborhood cleanup (Clean Cleveland Project), a Welcome Newborn initiative with SkyRidge Medical Center and others. The Refuge also offers holiday programming that helps struggling parents to provide a family Christmas for their children.
The Refuge’s partnership with other nonprofit agencies, area businesses and churches is anchored in its theme, “We Can Do Far More Together Than We Ever Could Alone!”
One of the keys to The Refuge’s work — such as the Christmas and School Supply Provision initiatives — is that the nonprofit assists families in ways that will help them to take greater ownership of their lives while embracing a mindset of caring for themselves with a hand up from others.
The School Supply Provision program provides a backpack filled with school supplies for each registered child who qualifies, but parents pay a $1 fee. Proceeds from the project are used to purchase school supplies for the program the following year.
“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,” Kyle said. “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.”
She added, “Everyone shares in the gain. Everyone learns a lesson — that life is not a giveaway; it requires work, and some give and take.”
Last year, the backpack project assisted 223 registered students. This year’s increase comes as no surprise to The Refuge whose leaders pointed to the continuing impact of the struggling U.S. economy on East Cleveland and surrounding area families, especially those who were already struggling before The Great Recession strengthened its grip on low- and middle-income families five years ago.
Of the $1 fee for the backpacks, Kyle said participating families are not fazed.
“No one is complaining about it,” she stated. “This is just our way of helping our families to learn and to take ownership of their lives.”
In the school supply program’s first two years, families were not charged. But this year’s initiative was modeled after the success of the agency’s 2011 Christmas program in which parents were allowed to purchase toys and other gifts from a tent sale for their children. The items were priced at greatly reduced discounts thanks to community donations. The tent sale was an add-on to the traditional Refuge Community Christmas in which parents were allowed to select gifts for their kids from donations.
Community contributions for the School Supply Provision initiative continue to be accepted at The Refuge office or in collection barrels set up in several area businesses and churches that have become regular partners with the nonprofit. They include TJ Maxx, New Covenant Church of God, Durkee Road Church of God of Prophecy, Berean Baptist Church, Skyridge Medical Center and Southern Adventist University in Ooltewah.
Donations may also be delivered to The Refuge office located in the Family Support Center at 1075 Blythe Avenue, Suite 8. The Family Support Center is housed in the old Blythe Avenue Elementary School building. It is owned and operated through the Family Resource Agency which is a member agency of United Way of Bradley County Inc.
Questions about the School Supply Provision project or about any operation within The Refuge may be directed to the agency at 423-584-5211 or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.