By Barbara Piwinski
United Way Volunteer
Although it has been a number of years since I have stepped into a classroom to begin a new school year, I still get that giddy feeling of nervous excitement and anticipation as summer ends and September arrives – What will this new school year have in store for me? What will I have the opportunity to learn?
A part of my excitement came from having new school supplies to start the year. Coming from a large family, this often meant a couple of new pencils or a new composition book. Not much, it but was new! And it was mine. New school supplies helped to set the stage for a new year of learning.
United Way of Hunterdon County (UWHC) recognizes the importance of a good education for all children in our community. School supplies are expensive. The 2019 Huntington Backpack Index, which tracks the average cost of school supplies across the country each year, determined that it will cost between $111.00 and $305.00 per child, depending on grade level, for those supplies; and their family will be expected to provide them.
Our ALICE families that we serve, those Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed, struggle each year with this added expense. Often living paycheck to paycheck, it may mean that the electric bill or rent does not get paid on time …..or their child may go without school supplies. To help ease this burden and the stress that accompanies it, UWHC offers backpacks filled with grade appropriate basic school supplies to all Hunterdon County children enrolled in the National School Lunch Program and also to children identified by their school to be in need.
This year, we will prepare approximately 1,200 backpacks and distribute them to students prior to the start of their school year. Our goal is for each child to walk into their new classroom, on the very first day of their new school year, looking and feeling just like all their classmates…..having the supplies they need.
As I noted earlier, school supplies are expensive. UWHC depends on the generosity of our community to donate all of the school supplies to fill these 1,200 backpacks. 3,600 folders, 1,200 binders with dividers and filler paper, 1,200 binder pencil pouches – you can see the challenge! Shortly we will moving into the backpack packing phase. Please consider a donation of school supplies, a list of which can be found on our website, or a monetary donation. This would allow us to purchase those items that are necessary so that all grade level backpacks include what the children will need.
I think we can all agree that a good education, beginning in early childhood, is a critical building block in the foundation of a good life. I would like every child to feel the same feelings of excitement and anticipation that I still feel as September and a new school year approaches. Having the supplies they need, in the new backpack they hold, just like every other student on that first day can only help to start the school year out right on the road to a lifetime of learning!