Each year, many local families struggle with all of the expenses involved in buying school supplies and back-to-school items for their children. In an effort to help these families, several food pantries, churches and community organizations in Athens County hand out free school supplies in August.
The Friends and Neighbors Community Choice Food Center in Lottridge is one place where school supplies are distributed each summer. The center receives local donations of school supplies, but it also receives donations from a unique group of supporters in Columbus. And this year, thanks to the publicity from the Dateline NBC program that featured Friends and Neighbors, school supply donations poured in from all across the country.
Patti Riordan, who lives in Columbus, volunteers her time every summer to pass out school supplies at the Friends and Neighbors center. She also organizes a donation drive in Columbus.
Riordan explained that when she or other volunteers see notebooks, backpacks, pencils or other back-to-school items on sale at stores close to their homes, they e-mail each other so that they can all go and buy large quantities of the items to take to Friends and Neighbors. Riordan and other volunteers then help pass out the materials to local families in need. This summer, Friends and Neighbors held two big back-to-school giveaway days in Lottridge in August, and the food pantry also held giveaway days at food pantries in Meigs and Washington counties.
At Lottridge, children, parents and grandparents all gathered at a special tent set up for the day and had the opportunity to pick up backpacks, paper, pencils, pens, glue and a wide rang of other items the children need for school. The families also had the opportunity to pick up free clothes to send their children back to school in.
“Mommy, this is fun. You don’t have to spend any of your money here,” one little girl told her mother as they were picking up items.
Many families are barely getting by and simply cannot afford the extra expenses involved with sending their children back to school, explained Lisa Roberts, director of the Friends and Neighbors. The donations from people in Athens County, Columbus, across the country and even internationally are all very much appreciated, and are all going to help people in need, Roberts said.
Angela Smith, a volunteer at Friends and Neighbors, added that she hopes people realize just how vital these donations are to families in need. “It is tremendously important,” Smith said.