Many Southern Tier families have been absent from recent back-to-school sales — not because they don’t want essential items, but because they can’t afford them.
To assist these folks in need, several parishes and agencies have recently collected and donated school supplies and, in some places, children’s clothing as well.
The need was obvious during an annual school-supplies drive run by Bath’s Turning Point Community Solution Center in conjunction with AmeriCorps, a national service organization. The effort netted 150 bags of such items as paper products, pens, pencils, crayons, markers, rulers, binders, folders, highlighters, glue sticks, scissors, lunch boxes and backpacks. Goods were distributed Aug. 27, at Bath’s First Presbyterian Church, for families from the Bath, Kanona, Savona, Bradford and Cameron areas of Steuben County.
Jessie Stonier, Turning Point’s office support specialist, observed that “we were supposed to be set up from 9 (a.m.) to 3 (p.m.), and everything was gone by 9:30. Everybody who came in had about three people per family.”
Stonier said her agency managed to collect more supplies — about 100 additional bags in all — that were distributed Aug. 30-31 at the office of Turning Point, a ministry of Catholic Charities of Steuben County.
“They were gone within two days. We still have people calling,” Stonier said Sept. 3. “I would say they’re like any of our other clients. They have a basic need, and it stretches to these areas (involving school supplies).”
Similarly, Karen Brown, pastoral minister at St. Anthony’s in Groton, has detected a large demand connected with her parish social-ministry committee’s annual drive. School supplies are forwarded to Groton public schools as well as St. Mary’s School in Cortland, just over the Tompkins County border.
“I think there’s a huge need. Every year we call the schools before we start the drive, and they say yes (to send supplies),” Brown said, noting that St. Anthony’s has been busy in recent weeks collecting numerous supplies that parishioners have dropped off in the church vestibule.
At Owego’s Tioga County Rural Ministry, the outreach provided many school supplies in September along with its regular offerings at the food pantry. These items consisted of crayons, pencils, pens and loose-leaf notebooks — “just the basics,” remarked Mercy Sister Phyllis McGuire, the ministry’s director.
Donations of these goods are plentiful even though the drive isn’t widely advertised. “It’s always done this time of year, sometimes without putting it in a bulletin or newspaper. People know enough to bring (supplies) in,” Sister McGuire said.
Distribution goes on all through the month, she added: “Even after the fact, once a child gets into school, maybe some of the parents don’t know everything that was needed.” Sister McGuire noted that the ministry keeps some supplies, such as notebook paper, on hand all year long in case further needs arise.
A two-fold approach marks a first-time drive being conducted in Tioga County’s Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick’s parishes. According to Deacon Warren Rutan, a drive organizer, the parishes have focused more recently on school supplies. He said that on a recent weekend at St. Margaret Mary in Apalachin, three backpacks and a large shopping bag of school supplies were among the items donated. “I think the response has been very good,” he said.
Deacon Rutan added that as the school year goes on, the Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick’s social ministry will also seek such donated clothing items as underwear and socks. All these goods are forwarded to Tioga schools.
A combined effort involving school supplies and clothing has also taken place at Steuben County Rural Ministry in Canisteo. Mercy Sister Susan Cain, the ministry’s director, said that “we really don’t fulfill everything on some lists, but at least we give the people a start. In a couple of cases we have fulfilled completely, because the people had no resources.”
Sister Cain said distribution for the drive was conducted at the Canisteo facility over a week’s period in late August, when 75 families with a total of 190 children were accommodated. She added that her ministry’s drive came on the heels of the “Sister Jude’s Giveaway,” an annual clothing initiative that is a tradition of St. Ann’s Church in Hornell, just north of Canisteo.