THE ALMANAC —Summer might not quite be a costumed mascot’s favorite time of year, especially when heat and humidity join forces.
But braving the elements must have been worth it for whoever was dressed Monday morning as the title character of the PBS series “Super Why” when seeing the smiles on the faces of hundreds of children gathered at the South Hills Interfaith Movement Center in Bethel Park.
They were there for the nonprofit organization’s annual back-to-school backpack distribution, and plenty of pens, pencils, crayons, notebooks, calculators and other essentials were available to everyone who visited. And here’s the Super Why for that:
“Every item here has been donated. We didn’t buy one thing,” Ilene Cohen, SHIM’s director of philanthropic engagement, explained. “The community really came forward, and purchased and dropped off thousands of items.”
More than 300 children received new backpacks filled with supplies during the distributions held the second week of August at Baldwin United Presbyterian Church in Baldwin Borough and the SHIM Family Center at Prospect Park in Whitehall. Another 500-plus were expected on Aug. 15 and 16 in Bethel Park.
Along with picking out their back-to-school materials, children participated in arts-and-crafts activities thanks to WQED-TV and Bethel Park Public Library. They also wrote thank-you notes to the many organizations that made donations.
While at the center, children and their parents had an opportunity to browse through the Community Closet at SHIM, which is open Monday mornings and Tuesday afternoons to help supply families with seasonally appropriate clothing and other necessary items, again with everything donated.
“Our biggest need is gently worn or new children’s clothing,” Cohen said, particularly this time of year. “A lot of these families are making hard decisions between clothing for school, the supplies for school, signing up for all their activities, and so anything we can do to help ease that burden is what we’re trying to achieve.”
Photos and story by: Harry Funk