Since 1998, United Way of Hunterdon County has provided local school students with school supplies for the start of the coming school year through their “Tools 4 School” program. Students who qualify for free or reduced lunch programs at their schools can receive most or all the school supplies they need according to grade level.
With inflation on the rise, higher costs for gas, food and rent mean less disposable income for items like school supplies. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the poorest households are being hit the hardest. Rising prices are devastating lower income households. Inflation for the poorest households is three percentage points higher than inflation for the wealthiest households (10.9% versus 7.9%).
The free Tools 4 School program's average cost-savings per student is $80. In a family with multiple schoolchildren, the savings can add up significantly, which frees up funds for other necessities such as food and rent.
“We have witnessed firsthand how appreciative the recipients of this program are on the days of distribution,” said Tom DeMuro, a volunteer of the Tools 4 School program since 2018. “Assisting students with the proper materials that they need in order to succeed academically helps level the playing field as students enter the new school year,” he said.
“School supplies like paper, pencils, glue, calculators and rulers are necessary to ensure that students come to school ready to learn,” said Bonnie Duncan, United Way of Hunterdon County’s CEO. “Children who don’t have what they need are at a distinct disadvantage.”
Individuals who are interested in helping can donate to the Tools 4 School program in several ways: By shopping locally at one of the United Way of Hunterdon County community partner stores like ShopRite of Hunterdon, BJ’s, and Staples of Flemington. Items can be dropped off at United Way’s Volunteer Center at 20 Fulper Road, Flemington. Donations are needed by Friday, August 5th.
In addition, donors can shop online and ship directly to United Way of Hunterdon County. The school supply wish list can be found here. Walmart offers a registry (Walmart Registry), Amazon provides a gift list (Amazon Gift List, and 19” backpacks can be purchased at BagsInBulk.com
In addition to donations, a team of volunteers are needed to ensure successful delivery of the program. Duties such as front desk greeters, help with administrative tasks, reviewing and following up with applications, inventory of donations, data entry, appointment scheduling, and backpack distribution are all roles that need to be filled. Interested volunteers can start by creating a volunteer profile here.
“As both donors and volunteers, I highly recommend getting involved in any way you can,” Demuro said.
In addition to school supply donations, financial donations to the program can be made at www.uwhunterdon.org/donate.
The mission of United Way of Hunterdon County is to bring people and resources together to improve lives and conditions, and to advance the common good of our community. United Way of Hunterdon County is a community center of volunteerism, leadership, and philanthropy that envisions a community where all individuals and families achieve their full potential through income stability, healthy lives, and education.