Janesville49.4°

Supplies help kids return to school

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Kathleen Foody
August 22, 2009
— Chelsea Bowen and her two children have lived in a handful of states but she says they found something special in Janesville. The family was living in a campground until Everyone Cooperating to Help Others, better known as ECHO, helped them find a place to live and provided them with food for three weeks.

ECHO is a nonprofit organization sponsored by the faith community that serves people with low incomes in the Janesville area.


When Bowen lost her job this year, she turned to the organization again to help prepare her son and daughter for school.


The Bowens were among 1,200 children registered for ECHO’s annual “McBuddies” school supply drive. Chelsea and her 12-year-old daughter, Ana, came Friday afternoon to pick up backpacks full of paper, pencils and other supplies for the approaching year.


The drive served about 200 more students than last year, a level of need that the group anticipated, said ECHO client advocate Cheryl Maveety. The community responded well with supply and cash donations, and Maveety is hopeful that the aid will cover ECHO’s purchases to “fill in the gaps for certain grades.”


Families had to qualify for low-income status to be eligible for the drive.


A volunteer met each family at the door of St. John Lutheran Church and guided them around the tables piled with Crayons, glue and highlighters. Backpacks for each grade lay in piles on the floor. Each bag had been pre-packed with supplies by volunteers working all week.


Any remaining supplies will be donated to Janesville schools to hand out to qualifying children throughout the year.


Everyone who came to the drive was appreciative and thankful, said Deb Griffith, an aide at Jefferson Elementary School who has volunteered at the supply distribution for the last three years with her daughter Regina.


“We started as a confirmation project and just really enjoyed the experience,” Griffith said. “Plus I get to see the end result of all the happy kids with their supplies on the first day of school.”


Being able to have new supplies means a lot to Ana as she gets ready to start seventh grade, but she said the help ECHO has given to her family means even more.


“They have really saved the day for us again,” Chelsea said.



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