It all began with a resourceful volunteer using leftover donations to brighten a smile, but now the Kyrene Resource Center is finding a way to help more than 900 underprivileged kids have some extra support over the summer.
"We had a volunteer at the resource center who for the past couple of years has created what she was calling fun kits for kids to do over the summer, with things that have been donated that we don't put out in our distribution room," said Amanda Hamm, program manager for prevention services at Kyrene. "Everything there is very focused and educational. You need appropriate school clothing, you need food, you need hygiene items, those sorts of things. Our room is small and focused. When things came in that didn't fit this volunteer was collecting those things and putting them in a Ziploc. Just before summer we would distribute those as summer kits. She was doing about 30 to 50 a year and we knew the need was hugely larger than that, but at the time it was a really great use of what was being donated to meet a need."
The district found teachers willing to put together games that were curriculum based and age specific, that kids could do on their own over the summer. They asked the resource center to find the items to make the activities possible.
The packages were meant to go to kids in Title I schools who listed as "fall far below grade level." In 2011 they estimated it would be around 400 kids, but soon found out it was 810.
This year, because of an increase in the number of kids getting free or reduced lunches, the estimate is 900 packs will be needed.
The packs are for kids in kindergarten through third grade. Each summer activity pack is age specific with games created by teachers. Now, all they need is all the items to make those activities possible.
Currently there are 12 drives happening, mostly in the Ahwatukee area, but Hamm says it's not enough.
"Most of the items are really cheap," Hamm said. "There are crayons, markers, notebooks and you can purchase all of those at the Dollar Tree. The items are affordable, but it's the volume that is so much."
The district is looking for more groups to host drives. They need crayons, markers, notebooks, decks of cards, card games, glue sticks, jump ropes and small puzzles or games.
The items will be collected through February and must be turned in to the district office by March 19. Once the items are collected they'll be counted and sorted, and packs will be compiled by volunteers to be distributed in May. To start a drive, contact Hamm at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 783-4074.
"It supports the kids in this community," Hamm said. "We have homeless kids in every single school in the entire district. When you're looking at achievement data, the kids who are under achieving are the kids who don't have the resources. It's not always about the school or the teacher, there's a huge misunderstanding. They need the resources... Having access to items that are instructional is critical to how well those kids will do later in life."
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