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Giving Tree seeks school supply donations

By Lea Kopke
Staff Writer

HOWARD – The Giving Tree is seeking donations for its 13th annual Back-to-School event, which gifts fully-stocked backpacks to Howard-Suamico students.

Kourtney Feldhausen, district student and family engagement coordinator, said in a normal year parents take their children inside the food pantry to pick out school supplies to fill a new backpack.

Last year, due to the pandemic, the Giving Tree offered a drive-through service where parents picked up pre-prepared backpacks, a system Feldhausen said will continue this year.

She said during the event families can also pick up their regular food pantry packages, make dentist appointments with the Oral Health Partnership and apply for the free or reduced lunch program and textbook fee waivers.

Feldhausen said the district has seen kids come away from the event feeling more physically and emotionally prepared for the school year.

“Not having a backpack is really difficult for kids,” Feldhausen said. “We want to make sure kids are ready to learn, right alongside their peers, and have every educational opportunity that every child should have.”

Angela Klum, Giving Tree onsite pantry supervisor, said typically 450-550 students are eligible to use the Back-to-School event, based on their participation in the free or reduced lunch program.

Klum said several parents have told her they get overwhelmed when they look at the school supplies list and how much is needed, especially when they have more than one child.

She said the event not only alleviates anxiety regarding finances, but it also helps to get students excited for a return to the classroom.

“In the past, while kids were shopping, lots of times we would have school staff here volunteering,” Klum said. “Kids got to see their principals and teachers, build that connection and get that extra feeling of, ‘Yay, school’s almost here!’”

She said leftover backpacks are set aside for families who join the district during the school year.

Feldhausen said a few grants, churches and local businesses do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of filling backpacks, but the pantry is still in need of some supplies.

The Giving Tree’s most-needed items include:

• Colored pencils.

• Single subject wide-ruled notebooks (red, purple, blue, green, yellow, black).

• Composition notebooks.

• Mechanical pencils.

• Dry erase markers.

• Washable classic colors – wide tip markers.

• Loose-leaf paper – wide line.

• Fabric pencil cases.

• Extra fine point permanent Sharpies.

• Scissors.

Supplies can be dropped off at Thornberry Cottage between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.

The Back-to-School event takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, August 11 at the Giving Tree pantry inside Green Bay Community Church.

Families registered with the Giving Tree are automatically a part of the Back-to-School event.

Families who believe they may qualify for the Giving Tree program, based on participation in the free or reduced meals program or current hardship, may contact Feldhausen at [email protected].

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