United Way is collecting school supplies and clothes for students preparing to return to class – Chicago Tribune

Procedures are different for United Way of Lake County’s annual school supply drive this summer as youngsters prepare to return to class in just over two weeks in Waukegan, but the goal is unchanged – to give students the tools to succeed.

With more than a dozen public and private sector community partners, United Way’s annual school supply drive has found a new gathering place and added clothing to the mix as volunteers try to collect and pack as much as they can by Saturday and are still continuing.

Bobbi Selvik, community relations manager for United Way, said the organization is working with community volunteers to acquire school supplies for at least 1,500 students in School District 60 in the Waukegan Community Unit by Saturday.

Selvik said supplies or money donated after Saturday would go to nearby districts of Round Lake, Zion and North Chicago. The Waukegan students in the cast are determined by District 60 officials.

“We generally focus on low-income families, but the school district takes the lead,” Selvik said. “Some donate the supplies. Others buy gift cards and we buy supplies.

Nicholas Alajakis, communications director for District 60, said all students are eligible to receive the supplies.

Carolina Fabian, District 60’s family and community engagement coordinator, said in the past that United Way and its community partner volunteers have collected supplies through a “purse the bus” event. The supplies contained in a backpack were then all distributed to the students.

“Over the years, United Way has been an instrumental partner to the school district and we are thrilled to have found another way to partner in support of our children after what has been an unprecedented year,” Fabian said in an email.

Another novelty this year is a clothing drive. Selvik said that not only did United Way and its volunteers need a place to sort supplies and assemble backpacks, but they also needed space to sort clothes by size and gender.

Alajakis said last summer that the District 60 school board eliminated the requirement to wear uniforms for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Uniforms weren’t required in high school for at least 20 years before that.

Given that elementary and middle school students took classes remotely until March this year and less than 40% came to class in person thereafter, the upcoming term is the first time many have need school clothes. Selvik said United Way felt there was also a need for a clothing drive.

“Last year there was no need for school clothes because of the (coronavirus) pandemic,” Selvik said. “School clothes were going to increase the cost of back to school this year. We decided to take a drive. We started to spread the word, as did our partners. We spread the word.”

Running both a school supply drive and a clothing drive meant that a larger staging space was needed as a location with enough space to display the clothing so families attending the distribution could find the right size. It’s all done at the People’s Choice Family Fun Center on Belvidere Road.

Volunteers have been working at People’s Choice for several weeks sorting supplies, putting them in backpacks and assembling clothes on racks or tables. Selvik said people could browse as if they were in a clothing store.

“In the past, we only had room for eight to 12 volunteers in a classroom at one of the schools,” Selvik said. “We had no room for clothes. We needed a bigger space and People’s Choice let us use some of theirs.

Selvik said people started bringing in supplies and clothes in late June, and volunteers started working soon after putting everything together. Partners include an assortment of businesses and government entities.

One of the partners is Medline. Jesse Greenberg, director of public affairs for the company, said in an email that helping young people in Waukegan and Lake County is an important part of the corporate culture for the city’s largest employer. The workers there spent time at People’s Choice to get things ready.

“The pandemic has been so disruptive in so many ways over the past year, having a significant impact on education,” he said in the email. “It’s important that all school-aged children start off on the right foot at the beginning of the school year. Ensuring families have the necessary supplies is one less concern for many families. »

Fabian said the size of the cast has doubled since the last one two years ago. Nothing was done last summer because of the pandemic.

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