The Almanac – It’s the most wonderful time of the year, if you believe the commercials that a certain office supplies retailer has aired on and off for the past couple of decades. Or maybe not.
“The cost to send kids back to school rises every year,” Courtney Macurak observed. “It’s hard, especially with extracurricular activities, new clothes and shoes, and it’s particularly difficult if you have more than one school-age child.”
Macurak is director of programs for South Hills Interfaith Movement, which each year seeks to help ease the stress of local families by hosting a series of back-to-school celebrations.
The events, in turn, are possible with a lot of help from friends, led by CentiMark Corp.’s donation of 700 new JanSport backpacks. And to fill those backpacks, donors are coming through with plenty of support.
“We have an extremely generous and giving community,” SHIM executive director Jim Guffey said. “From local families to groups, to churches to businesses, our neighbors have come together to provide school supplies in the hopes that every child in the South Hills can start the school year ready for success.”
Donations of items – everything from binders and folders to pens and pencils to locks for lockers – are being accepted through Aug. 7 at SHIM’s Bethel Park center, 5301 Park Ave., in advance of the back-to-school events the following week: 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 14 at Baldwin United Presbyterian Church, 201 Knoedler Road; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 17 at SHIM’s Prospect Park Family Center, 1450 Maple Drive, Whitehall; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 18 at the Bethel Park Community Center, 5151 Park Ave.
During the celebrations, children will be able to choose the backpacks they like and the supplies they need. The events will feature special activities and appearances from PBS characters, through a special partnership with WQED-TV and local libraries.
“Our back-to-school program is open too all kids, regardless of their income, in the six school districts we’re serving,” Macurak explained, encompassing students in kindergarten through 12th grade from Baldwin-Whitehall, Bethel Park, Keystone Oaks, Mt. Lebanon, South Park and Upper St. Clair.
“I think the kids will be happy,” she said. “They’ll be excited.”
Reservations for attending the back-to-school events are encouraged. For more information, families can contact Molly Patterson at firstname.lastname@example.org. People who are interested in donating supplies can visit shimcares.org/give/back-to-school.
By Harry Funk | The Almanac