Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 5:08 PM on Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Families get helping hand with school supplies shopping

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photo by McKibben Jackinsky

Milli Martin helps donated school supplies for distribution by the Omicrom chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma on Monday.

Paper and pencils are just the beginning of a long list of supplies students need to bring to school. There also are crayons, erasers, three-ring binders, tape, snacks, tissue, anti-bacterial wipes, shoes for indoor use and more.

The list goes on and on.

What applies to kindergarten students isn't the same as eighth-graders. What applies to one classroom isn't the same as another.

Thanks to the 30 local members of the Omicron Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma — a professional honorary society of women educators that promotes professional and personal growth of members and excellence in education — area families needing help with long shopping lists are getting just that.

"It was just something I saw the need for and approached then-president Gloria Hensen, and we started doing as a service project," said society member Karen Murdock, who, as a volunteer at the Homer Community Food Pantry, became aware in 2007 of the challenge some families faced outfitting children for school.

"The need has remained consistent over the last couple of years, but families are really feeling it this year. Finances are so incredibly tight," said Murdock.

"I don't know if you've taken a look at the price of school supplies, but (purchasing them) is challenging. It really is."

Beginning about the third week in July, Murdock and other society members began working with food pantry volunteers to identify families needing support.

The volunteers collected names of children, the schools they attend and the classrooms to which they were assigned so tailor-made school supply packages could be put together.

"It's such a fun project and it's really grown in terms of the community being involved," said Murdock. "This is our sixth year and, to date, we have helped 600 kids."

Collection boxes at Ulmer's Drug and Hardware allow for members of the public to donate supplies. Several churches including Community Christian Church, Faith Lutheran Church, Glacierview Baptist Church and Homer United Methodist Church have provided donations.

The Emblem Club has provided backpacks. Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary Club passed the hat at a recent meeting and provided a cash donation. Save U More also helped.

"And we have different friends that have contributed cash that has been used to purchase mainly backpacks, as well as different school supplies," said Murdock.

When the effort began in 2007, Omicron Chapter members distributed packages containing a few items. The idea to do it differently came three years ago when "someone in the community donated a couple of backpacks packed with things. It was so touching," said Murdock of the extra care taken.

"Then parents started coming in, asking if we had backpacks, so last year we invited local churches to participate and they were really instrumental in supplying backpacks."

As a result, this year 81 children in families needing help from Ninilchik to Nanwalek have been assisted, 75 with supply-filled backpacks bearing a specific student's name.

On Aug. 20, Murdock and Hensen were at the food pantry to distribute the supplies. This week, Milli Martin and Ceil Manchester continued the effort.

"I'd like the school district to take another look at these lists and see where they might be able to cut back to make it financially easier on parents," said Martin. "We're looking at some very expensive items."

Another distribution of supplies will be done after Labor Day for students that began the school year late.

"Also the second semester, January, we bring out other school supplies needed because kids have gone through paper, pencils and things like that, and also for new families that have moved in," said Murdock.

Collection boxes will remain at Ulmer's through Friday. After that, donated items can be given to the food pantry for distribution as needed.

In addition to seeing families' needs and the community's generosity, Murdock also has witnessed a spirit of sharing.

"Last week we had a woman come in that had requested backpacks for her children, but she got a package from family Outside and said she didn't need the backpacks, so she gave them back," said Murdock.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.