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Glen Ellyn project provides school supplies for growing low-income student population

Published: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013 9:00 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:58 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Erica Benson - ebenson@shawmedia.com)
Supplies 4 Success volunteers, including Chris Evans of Glen Ellyn, help deliver school supplies Monday Aug. 19 to Abraham Lincoln Elementary School. The backpacks and supply kits are given to needy children in districts 41 and 89.

GLEN ELLYN – As Supplies 4 Success celebrates its fifth anniversary in Glen Ellyn, the program, which provides free supplies and backpacks for local children, has yet to see a decrease in need.

A project of the nonprofit Partnership for Educational Progress (PEP) Foundation, Supplies 4 Success offers these items to students in Districts 41 and 89 who qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program in each district.

“It’s important that we take care of our own in Glen Ellyn, and it shows students and students’ families that we care about their education,” said Supplies 4 Success founder and District 41 parent Karen Evans.

Since Evans started Supplies 4 Success in 2009, the number of students in both districts who are eligible to receive the supply kits has increased.

That may be due in part to the economy and changing area demographics, Evans said.

This year, the organization has about 1,100 kits ready – roughly the same as last year – although Evans said she expects closer to 1,000 will be distributed. In 2009, about 700 kits were needed.

Volunteers prepare enough kits for every student entitled to one, but not every family opts to use the resources available from Supplies 4 Success, she said.

Any unused kits are saved for the next year.

Based on Free and Reduced Lunch program numbers from March, District 41 officials expect to see about 825 kits distributed to their students, enough for about 23 percent of the district population. District 89 officials anticipate about 300 students will receive kits, or about 18 percent.

“We greatly appreciate it,” said District 41 Director of Communications and Grants Julie Worthen. “It’s been wonderful to be able to count on this.”

In District 89, the parent-led Community Outreach Program works with Supplies 4 Success and school social workers to coordinate the project at each school.

“We try to do what we can to even the playing field for all our students,” said District 89 parent and Community Outreach Program Chair Sam Reif.

Kits differ by grade level and include supplies, from folders and notebooks to pens, pencils and art supplies. Along with each kit, students also receive a backpack.

The kits and backpacks come from SchoolKidz USA in Woodridge, which sells the items to nonprofits at reduced prices.

Supplies 4 Success has yet to receive the bill for this year’s kits, but Evans said current donations won’t cover it.

“We’re a little behind of where we want to be,” she said.

Community members are able to donate online by visiting the PEP Foundation website or sending a check to Supplies 4 Success at 435 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 145, Glen Ellyn. A donation of $25 provides a kit and backpack for one student.

The way kits and backpacks are distributed differs by school, but each method is designed to be as sensitive and anonymous as possible.

Some schools store the supplies in a classroom that qualifying students visit during their school’s “back-to-school” event. Having the supplies in a specific room prevents students from having to stand in line for the program in front of everyone else.

“They’re not singled out, which I think is important,” Evans said. “We want to help, but we don’t want to embarrass aybody in the process of helping either.”

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