As the end of August approaches, kids across the country are enjoying the last days of summer and getting ready to go back to school. But unfortunately, not every child can afford a backpack and the basic supplies they need each year.
That leads to teachers and educators spending their own money on school supplies and essential classroom items. This is a growing problem across the United States as well as in Pittsburgh. Fortunately, there are ways to help.
On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation and CONSOL Energy teamed up with World Vision – a humanitarian organization focused on making the world a better place for children – to help eradicate that issue. As part of World Vision’s SchoolsTools program, volunteers from the Foundation, Penguins front office and CONSOL Energy spent the afternoon filling backpacks with school supplies at the World Vision Global Distribution Center in Sewickley.
“About a year ago, we got involved with World Vision,” said Dave Soltesz, President of the Penguins Foundation. “Their mission fits what the Foundation is about. It deals with kids; it deals with kids internationally, helping kids with water, clothes, food and all those basic things. We felt that it was a very, very appropriate fit for the Foundation.”
A total of 1,500 backpacks were filled with supplies and packed into boxes to be distributed to local schools in the city of Pittsburgh, Green County, Washington County and other outlying counties.
“SchoolTools was created by World Vision to fill a gap,” said Jim Fischerkeller, the World Vision Director of Corporate Relations. “Every year, teachers send home lists of products they need or supplies the kids need to provide and many families just don’t have the money or funds to do that. They have to worry about paying for lunches and getting kids transportation and whatever the case may be, so they come unprepared and these teachers are using their own money to fill the gaps so those kids feel they can participate as the other kids do.”
The volunteers packed new backpacks with pencils, erasers, pens, notebooks, folders, pencils, glue, crayons, markers, rulers and more. Each backpack was zipped up with a unique supportive note inside. Not only were the kids given the gift of education, they were given encouragement.
“That part has been amazing,” Fischerkeller said. “Nothing gets the response that the backpacks do, because the kids want to be excited for school. They don’t want it to be a chore. They want to have the things that they need to be able to keep up with the other kids, be excited, follow the teacher’s instructions and have everything in hand that they need.”
World Vision was founded in 1950, and has distributed supplies nationally as well as internationally. They have distributed everything from medical supplies, clothing and shoes, to school supplies. The main goal is to help transform communities. And that’s what was achieved today.
“I’m really excited to be here,” said Penguins new media coordinator Andi Perelman. “The Pens Foundation is doing really great things with World Vision. When we got here today, they showed us a video and talked about how much teachers pay out of pocket for students. It’s such a high cost and there are so many people out there who don’t have the opportunity to buy things like this. I’m just happy to help and pack these backpacks and give them to local students.”