Donations to Summer of Caring this week will help prepare Sumter students for school
BY KEVIN HOWELL
Sumter United Ministries
In the rain without an umbrella, in the cold without a coat or in the heat without drinking water… not being prepared is a miserable and helpless feeling.
Every year in Sumter County, thousands of children and teens know that once the calendar passes into August, a return to school is on the horizon. For many students, they will start the year with a pervasive feeling of being unprepared. As school supply lists are distributed by teachers, many families and students already know that they are unlikely to have adequate supplies unless they find helpful resources.
Sumter United Ministries started our special “Gear Up For Learning” project over 20 years ago. Each year we coordinate with the school district to find out what supplies are needed and how they are best packaged for distribution. Each school receives supplies, but they are not all equally distributed. Schools in poor areas will get a higher percentage, for example. Students or parents simply walk into the guidance counselor’s office to request supplies, and their needs are met. Distributing school supplies is easy, but targeting the children who need them the most requires strategy and coordination, crucial planning elements of our project. A former school guidance counselor for more than 20 years told us: “The need for this project is great. School staff and students are always grateful for donated supplies.
At SUM, we believe that every student deserves an equal chance for success in the classroom, and lack of supplies becomes a barrier for some students. For a wide variety of reasons, some families do not or cannot provide all the supplies their children need. Either way, a compassionate response encompasses the idea that kids shouldn’t spend their school days borrowing or going without.
One of our volunteers at SUM is currently the principal of an elementary school whose student body represents a large number of low-income households.
“A level playing field is essential. Lack of necessary supplies not only affects academic achievement, but also behavior and confidence. Starting the school year without having what you need means that you are starting the year already in delay,” she said.
“Imagine the teacher telling the class to take notes, and one student doesn’t have a pencil or a pen. It would be awkward for that student, and I’m sure some students would be too shy to express their need to the student. Our goal is to take that anxiety away by getting supplies to students who don’t have them,” said SUM Executive Director Mark Champagne.
All donations made to Summer of Caring this week will be used to purchase supplies for Gear Up For Learning. You can send your donations to The Sumter Item or to SUM at PO Box 1017, Sumter SC 29151-1017.
Supplies are currently being picked up and can be dropped off at the Sumter United Ministries office from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. through Friday or to Bynum Insurance between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. On Monday, supplies should be brought to First Baptist Church Gymnasium from 9 am until noon. Monday is the last day for donated supplies.
Kevin Howell is the Director of Crisis Relief Ministry at Sumter United Ministries.
New donations as of August 2: none