Back To School

My niece is a teacher of gifted students in a district  that apparently has many families who are financially challenged. For such families, August presents a real hardship: It's time to get ready for back-to-school.

I remember August when I was a kid. Besides playing Monopoly and beginning to tire of the popsicle man who came around in the afternoon, there would come a day when my mother would take me to Ninth Street to get ready to go back to school. The area is now known as the Italian Market and has changed some in sixty or sixty-five years. In addition to the gorgeous veal visible in some shop windows and the caged chickens (this was long before "free range") in front of others, there were shops that had rows of plaid dresses hanging from racks outside. There was a man who would intone, "Look 'em over, ladies!" to my mother and the other mothers who had come to outfit their daughters for that important First Day. We'd pick out usually three new cotton dresses and then go down the street a bit for a pair of school shoes. And sometimes a pair of Sunday shoes.

Besides wanting to look right for that day after Labor Day, there is a need for supplies. My kids didn't get a new backpack every year, but they got all the other stuff: the notebooks, pencils, dividers, those kinds of things.

A few years ago, Susan posted on Facebook something about for those of us who no longer have children to outfit for back-to-school, would we be interested in purchasing and filling a backpack for a student whose family would find this an overwhelming expense.

It's funny how ingrained back-to-school shopping is. The joy I took picking out and filling a backpack that went to a promising young woman was immense. So I put it on my calendar as a repeat for the first week in August. And in another week, I'll drive out to Lancaster County, pay homage to The Old Country Store, meet up with Susan, turn over this year's filled backpack, and finish up with a traditional delicious lunch at Kling House. It's become one of my favorite days of the year.

You might want to try it. I suspect that if you went to any public school with a new, filled backpack, the guidance counselor would welcome you with open arms. And you'd enable a young person to start off the new year with just a little less anxiety.


Barbara Anne said…
What a wonderful idea! I suspect a list of the kind of tablet needed (remember those with lined pages and not apps!), the kind of pencils, etc would make shopping much easier and accurate for the what the recipients will need.

Thanks for the suggestion. :)

Diana said…
There was a piece in our newspaper that said an average cost to send each child back to school is $250.00. When they get to middle school (like one of my "greats") it is even more as gym clothes are added.
Anonymous said…
Last night, my husband and I were talking about school supplies, and how much I loved shopping for them. There are a number of school supply drives in our area, and I usually try to donate something every year. Thanks for bringing this issue to wider attention!
Janet O. said…
I love the idea of being able to fill a backpack.
The grocery store I frequent often has a list of school supplies needed to help local school children, that is available to pick up as you enter the store. You can purchase any or all of the items as you shop and then drop them off in a receptacle as you leave--or just donate money. It feels good to help and I don't have to worry about forgetting to get it done, because I am there at the store and can purchase then and there, and leave it with them as I go. So helpful to me. I so easily forget things I intend to do. :(
There are several "stuff a backpack" drives in our area sponsored by several groups. Even though our kids are out of school, I still support a group at the school where our kids went that sends a bag of food home with certain kids every weekend when they don't have access to the morning breakfast and lunch programs. Bread, peanut butter, snacks and juice boxes go a long way in keeping kids fed. There are a lot of programs around that support children's needs that many are not aware of. If you are interested at all, please check with your school. The weekend food program was started by the janitor. I don't remember how I heard of it, but it has been feeding MY soul for at least 10 years.
xx, Carol