When a small group of Hands4Hope youth volunteers gathered on an evening in late April, they set a remarkable goal for Hands4Hope’s 5th Annual School Supply Drive. Their goal was to provide a backpack filled with necessary school supplies for 300 local children in need. This drive is one of many events and outreaches organized by the local nonprofit, which provides service learning opportunities to youth with a mission to empower youth in leadership and service.
The youth volunteers from local middle and high schools plotted a course of action to reach out to local businesses, agencies, churches, and community members to collect new backpacks and school supplies such as notebooks, pencils and pens, scissors, glue sticks, binders, reusable water bottles, and paper.
During the past three months, they hosted three tabling events—one at the OfficeMax store in Placerville and two at the Walmart store in Folsom. They placed collection bins at seven locations in Sacramento and El Dorado County including Mercedes Benz of El Dorado Hills, Bag King, Lyons Orthodontics, Cambridge Chiropractic, GHD, Cold Springs Church, and the El Dorado County Library. They also collected donations from the Folsom Lake Earthquakes soccer team, Kumon of El Dorado Hills, Rolling Hills Church, and private donations from community members.
By the time the drive had ended earlier this month, they had collected more than 10,000 items and reached their goal to supply over 300 youth in need with school supplies for the upcoming year.
“This event was by far the best it’s ever been,” says Taylor Smith, the youth School Supply Drive Intern who led this event for the second year. “My team and I worked so hard this year to improve upon past years and to help as many students as possible.”
The distribution of the school supplies took place on August 10 in Placerville. Kim Kahn, Family Resource/After School Enrichment Director with the Placerville Union School District, helped Hands4Hope spread the word to students needing supplies from all over the county.
“The 2018 distribution was a huge success,” says Kahn. “With a 55% low-income rate in our district, families have come to depend on this event every year to let their children pick out what they need for school that they can’t necessarily afford.” She says the students were beaming with excitement at being able to choose items that help them feel supported and have a sense of belonging.
The event also proved rewarding for the Hands4Hope youth who worked on the drive. H4H youth volunteer Chloe Murphy says she especially loved seeing the younger children’s excitement when they received their new backpacks. “I helped quite a few siblings and it was fun to see the older brothers and sisters guide the younger ones and explain why they needed so many things for school,” says Murphy.
Bella Dondershine, another second-year volunteer with the School Supply Drive points to a key reason for the drive’s success—the willingness of community members to contribute. “It’s amazing to me how willing people and businesses are to help people who are in need. Volunteering for projects like this reminds me of the kindness that exists in everyday people,” she explains.