The beginning of the 2007-08 school year is just around the corner, and many parents have probably been busily rushing from store to store and stocking up on all the school supplies their children will need this year.
Some parents, however, can’t afford to buy these necessities for their children, and it’s these families that several local parishes are hoping to help. Throughout the month of August members of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Clyde, St. Patrick Parish in Savannah, Holy Cross Parish in Ovid and St. Francis Solanus Parish in Interlaken have been collecting school supplies for their local school districts.
Holy Cross and St. Francis Solanus parishes have held school-supplies drives each August for a number of years, said Marilynn Frank, faith-formation coordinator at Holy Cross. Frank also is one of the five members of the parish’s Witness Committee. These five people work together with the two members of the St. Francis Solanus Witness Committee to organize the drive each year, Frank said.
“Number one, it’s our own people, and number two, Jesus asked us to serve our fellow man,” Frank said in explaining why the drive is held. “We definitely feel that we have to outreach in south Seneca County because there’s a need there.”
That need has grown in recent years and is still growing this year, judging from the increasing number of people who are now turning to the local food pantries for help feeding their families, Frank observed.
Parishioners are asked to donate pens, pencils, markers, notebooks, crayons, colored pencils and erasers, as well as children’s underwear, sweatpants and sweatshirts, Frank said. Witness Committee members encourage parishioners to donate a wide variety of materials appropriate for students in elementary, middle and high school, she added.
Parishioners drop off the donated school supplies in boxes at the front and rear of the two churches, and at the end of the month Frank and the other Witness Committee members gather the donated supplies. They divide the supplies in half and give them to their two local school districts, South Seneca Central School District and Romulus Central School District, Frank said.
Parishioners have been very generous and have made the annual drive a resounding success, she added.
“No matter what we do they’re extremely supportive,” Frank said.
The school-supplies drive at St. John and St. Patrick parishes is called Project Imagine and began in 2003, said project coordinator Sylvia DiSanto. At that time, the parishes’ social-ministry committee was looking for a new way to reach out and serve the community’s needs.
“We found out that the schools have an awful lot of children who do not have school supplies for many different reasons,” DiSanto said.
Some parents neglect to buy supplies for their children simply because they’re not paying attention to what’s going on around them, but most parents who fail to buy supplies do so because they can’t afford them, DiSanto said.
“This is not a rich community down here. It’s a pretty poor area, and we’ve got a lot of families that do not have the money to go out and get the supplies for these kids,” she said.
When they realized how great the local children’s need was, DiSanto and the other social-ministry committee members organized Project Imagine, which St. John and St. Patrick parishes sponsor in collaboration with several other Clyde and Savannah congregations.
“There’s just an awful lot of children out there that don’t have the proper tools,” DiSanto said. “Project Imagine is about imagining what our children can do with the right tools. Our local churches are giving all the children a chance to use their imaginations, and just imagine what they can do.”
With the right tools — pencils, paper, love and faith — and a little bit of imagination, a child might just become the next Albert Einstein or William Shakespeare, she added.
The parishioners in Clyde and Savannah collect the same basic types of school supplies the Ovid and Interlaken parishioners collect: pens, pencils, crayons, binders, composition books, spiral notebooks, erasers, glue sticks, book bags and markers. Parishioners also occasionally donate flash cards, pencil boxes and thesauruses.
Project Imagine usually runs throughout the month of August and ends the Sunday after Labor Day, DiSanto said. DiSanto and other volunteers then gather the donated supplies and deliver them to the school nurses at Clyde’s elementary, middle and high schools.
“Every one of them has told me that they used every single (item), and they could probably use some more,” DiSanto said.
Parishioners have been more than willing to donate school supplies, and Project Imagine gets a little bit bigger and more successful each year, she said.
“If you can do it throughout August when the sales are on, you can get an awful lot. Right now there are so many nice sales that people will go out and buy a lot and not be spending an awful lot of money,” she said.
Last year Project Imagine garnered 93 packages of pencils, 74 packages of pens, 88 packages of paper, 203 spiral notebooks and 268 folders, DiSanto said.
“We got 138 boxes of crayons, and those were only the ones with 16 (crayons) in them. We also had some with 65,” she said.
DiSanto hopes Project Imagine will be even more successful this year, she said.
“I do think that children who do have what they need to have in school do better,” she said. “I just feel very strongly about it because it really is something that helps people, and that’s what we’re all about.”