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Need for school supplies at ECHO reaches an all-time high

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Shelly Birkelo
August 5, 2012

— The school supplies Kathleen Patrick's four children get from ECHO makes them feel like they fit in at school.

The nearly $300 in savings helps the single mom stretch her full-time paycheck.

"It helps put food in the house and buy gas for back and forth to work," the 40-year-old Janesville woman said.

Patrick's family has attended ECHO's back-to-school supply giveaway for the past five years. Without it, she doesn't know what they'd do.

"Everything is just so expensive," she said.

The Patrick family is not alone.

Last year, ECHO gave school supplies to 1,430 children, twice as many as in 2005 and five times more than in 2001, according to the faith-sponsored charity's latest newsletter.

Need has reached an all-time high, and ECHO is preparing to provide 1,600 children with school supplies this month.

Two weeks after registration started, a couple hundred families already had signed up to receive supplies, said Cheryl Maveety, client advocate.

"I'm sure we're going to hit the 1,500 mark, if not go over that. Client demand for all our services are up like 20 percent," she said.

Donations, however, have been down.

"We're probably a little bit behind for the same time last year. By now, we would have some bags stacking up, and we don't," Maveety said.

Maveety said she hoped it wasn't a sign that everybody is hurting.

"We do have a lot more (clients) who were donors now needing those school supplies," she said.

Maveety said ECHO didn't have money in its budget last year to go out and buy supplies but people in the community came through at the last minute to help ECHO provide enough supplies for those in need.

Again this year, ECHO has no money in its budget to buy $8,000 to $10,000 in supplies to supplement donations of school supplies and money given for the annual project.

Families in need of school supplies can register at the ECHO office, 65 S. High St., through Aug. 23, when the adult coming in must provide a photo ID and utility bill plus proof of household income, Maveety said.

Those able to donate supplies may drop them off at the ECHO office or in collection barrels at any Janesville McDonald's, Commercial Bank, Heartland Credit Union, Kmart, Johnson Bank, Rock-Green Realtors and Walgreens through Friday, Aug. 17.

In addition, ECHO will provide a collection barrel to any group or business wanting to host a collection drive.

Those who don't want to shop for supplies are invited to donate to the cause, Maveety said.

If kids going back to school don't have the right tools to start the school year off, it puts them behind, she said.

"Imagine already being in a low-income family where you don't have anything anyway, and then you have to go to school with nothing. I hate to think someone just doesn't have that extra boost," Maveety said.

"Remember when you were a kid and got that pack of fresh crayons? It just made you feel good to be able to go to school with those things in your backpack," she said.

Patrick agreed.

"As soon as the kids get home, they unzip their backpacks and go through each thing, rearrange all the supplies and get all excited about school," she said. "It makes them feel good about themselves and like they fit in."


 

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