Shirley Bradsby remembers when shopping for school supplies for her children — all now grown — was much simpler.
These days, with longer lists that include technology and earbuds, getting kids ready for school can dig a deep …
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Larry H. Miller dealerships
Drop-off school supplies at any of the following dealership locations:
• Larry H. Miller Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram 104th
1800 W. 104th, Thornton
• Larry H. Miller Nissan of Highlands Ranch
1320 Plum Valley Lane, Highlands Ranch
• Larry H. Miller Volkswagen Lakewood
8303 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood
• Larry H. Miller Ford Lakewood
11595 W. 6th Ave., Lakewood
• Larry H. Miller Dodge Ram Cherry Creek
2727 S. Havana St., Denver
• Larry H. Miller FIAT Denver
505 S. Havana St., Denver
The Action Center
Any and all supplies are needed at the Jeffco Action Center
8755 W. 14th Ave., Lakewood
P.O. Box 84, Castle Rock
3370 S. Irving St., Englewood
Water color sketch pads
These days, with longer lists that include technology and earbuds, getting kids ready for school can dig a deep hole in your pocket. Especially with the pressure for children to have the coolest and latest designs and styles.
“Just to get all the supplies for one child can cost more than $100,” Bradsby said. “In this day and age there has to be a way to help others who are struggling, because we all really want the best for the kids.”
So Bradsby, along with countless other people in the metro area, found a way to give back — by donating school supplies.
Organizations like The Action Center in Jefferson County, where Bradsby volunteers, and Integrated Family Community Services in Arapahoe County; businesses like Larry H. Miller dealerships in Denver, Lakewood, Thornton, Littleton and Highlands Ranch; and county governments and school districts like Douglas County and Westminster Public Schools all host school supply drives to make sure students have everything they need to be successful in class.
“We want to offer what resources we can to our community and our students,” said Rand Clark, Community of Care navigator with Douglas County, which helps organize two Strive to Thrive Resource Fairs a year for families in the county. “We have a wonderful community with a lot of organizations who want to help, and we want residents to know help is available.”
Need is apparent
With high housing costs in most metro communities, the need for school supply help certainly exists.
During the Aug. 1 Strive to Thrive event at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, 347 backpacks were handed out to students in need. And in Westminster, Steve Saunders, chief communications officer with Westminster Public Schools, said the district received 850 backpack donations from Staples for students.
Integrated Family Community Services in Englewood, which covers Arapahoe County and northern Douglas County helps about a thousand students a year by taking two approaches, Director of Development Todd McPherson said.
About 600 students are sponsored by businesses, organizations and churches, and have a backpack and supplies picked out specifically for them by their sponsors. The other 400 or so students receive a generic backpack with generic supplies.
“For a family to participate, they need to be in our coverage area and be able to demonstrate financial need,” McPherson said. “We’ve been doing this program for decades, and it helps a lot of kids.”
By working with 9News and the Volunteers of America Colorado branch, Larry H. Miller dealerships have hosted a “Stuff for Students” school supply drive for three years. School supply donations are collected throughout August and are distributed to more than 15 school districts around the state.
Approximately 23 percent of the 743,255 students in the counties served by Volunteers of America are living in poverty, compared to the state average of 14.7 percent, according to information provided by Larry H. Miller.
Colorado school districts identify nearly 25,000 students statewide who are experiencing homelessness.
“We’ve received more than $26,000 in donations at our dealership locations,” said Todd Hoskins, general manager of Larry H. Miller Ford Lakewood. “We’re a pay-it-forward organization, and education is very important to us. We want to make sure we take care of everyone.”
Social media creates peer pressure
Such items as backpacks, notebooks, pencils and other standard items are in demand, and will always be in demand, according to Barbara Penning, director of volunteer programs and in-kind donations with the Action Center.
“There’s all kinds of pressure for kids’ supplies to stay current with what’s popular, and they get even more from social media,” she said. “Parents can sometimes skip a mortgage or rent payment to pay for supplies, and that’s not a choice we want them to make.”
A key tenet of the Action Center’s approach is giving families a chance to shop for the supplies themselves during a five-day distribution event. All supplies are free for the families, and volunteers make Stevens Elementary’s gym look like a store where parents and children can pick out the items they need.
“We accept donations year-round to make sure we have enough supplies for everyone, and we get businesses and organizations who donate hundreds to thousands of items,” Penning added. “We have all kinds of volunteers who work hard to get everything and ready out to families in need in a dignified manner.”
Which is where people like Bradsby come in, donating their time and resources to help in any way they can.
“With what we do, school supplies become one huge expense they don’t have to worry about,” she said of helping at the Action Center. “We all want to help our neighbors, and that’s who these people are — our neighbors.”
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