Project Hope provides school supplies to Lane County students in need


Going back to school, especially these days, is easier with a little help.

The Project Hope Back-to-School Giveaway competition, now in its 11th grade, kicked off Saturday at two schools in Lane County. The two-day event provides thousands of school children with some of the essential clothes and supplies they need to get back to school for the New Year.

Students from 4J, Springfield, Bethel and Junction City school districts are chosen to participate.

“These students may have economic barriers that other students don’t have,” said Patti Buss, program director for the local Christian service organization One Hope. “Maybe they could get school supplies, but might not have new shoes for the year.”

One Hope is organizing Project Hope.

The Project Hope Back-to-School Giveaway competition has helped 3,500 families in each of the past four years, Buss said. School districts decide which families to invite.

“I’m a nurse so it’s really hard for me to have the time to go to different stores and find places where they can buy their shoes,” said Gina Merritt, a mother of three in Walterville. “It’s a really amazing thing that people do. It saves parents a lot, for sure, especially at times like this where you have masks and COVID…. It just takes a lot off your plate.”

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While the back-to-school giveaways from previous years had a festive atmosphere, where students could play games or get their faces made up, the ongoing pandemic has prompted organizers to streamline this year’s event. Instead of opening the doors to everyone at the same time, families signed up for time slots where groups of 100 people were allowed to enter.

“They come. They check in. They have their feet measured. They grab some new socks. They pick a backpack, whatever they want, and it’s got their supplies in it. Then they leave and their shoes are on. released by gender and size and they can choose, “Buss said.” We wanted them to always get what they need and to always have the dignity to choose. “

Brothers Brentley Merritt, 8, left, and Jackson Merritt, 6, of Walterville rummage through backpacks and supplies they received at the "Hope Project" Saturday event at Maple Elementary School in Springfield.

This year’s giveaway, for the first time, included 150 laptops raffled across the four school districts. Comcast donated the laptops and was present at the event to offer information about its Internet Essentials program, which provides low-cost Internet access to low-income households. The program also offers low-cost computers and digital literacy training.

“Donate laptops is tied into this program to ensure that households and families have all the resources they need to thrive in this digital environment,” said Rebecca Brown, Comcast senior director for Community Impact. “I’m just thrilled to help the community and to be able to provide the resources to the families who will hopefully help these students start on an equal footing. This will alleviate some of the burdens. “

Ariel Matisen said the laptop his family received in the gift will help his nieces, Marlow and Sierra Matisen, do the kind of work his old model laptop can’t.

“It is very important to us and we are very grateful for it,” she said.

Contact reporter Adam Duvernay at Follow on Twitter @DuvernayOR.

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