Annual school supply drives help students in need

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – It may be hard to believe, but summer is quickly winding down. That means back to school shopping is gearing up. Displays are popping up across the city at stores like Walmart and Meijer. Setting up for the back to school shopping crowd is something that started nearly a month ago.

“Typically after the Fourth of July, we set up our key items- notebooks, filler paper, pencils, crayons, and we put those in a high capacity format,” Walmart store manager, Brandon Vandonk, said.

Lisa Recker is a mom of four. Her kids are in high school, middle school, and grade school. She said age makes a difference when it comes to the cost of school supplies.

“In my mind, it seems like it’s a little bit more expensive when they’re younger because they have to have all the crayons and markers and pencils and folders and notebooks. Once they get into high school, for me, it seems to settle down some,” Recker said.

Recker said she usually spends an average of $150 on school supplies each year. She thinks back to school shopping came faster than ever this year, but she has a strategy for making things go smoothly.

“I basically just grab the list for the kids and get it all done one time. If you bring your list and check it off, you’re in good shape. When we get home, we actually organize it by kid and I usually try to have their backpacks and just load it and be done,” Recker said.

Stores like Walmart are doing their best to make it easy to find everything a student may need, and the crowds of shoppers show that.

“The last two weeks have been extraordinary for our back to school sales. Typically between 4 and 7 p.m. and we do have a rush in the morning between 10 am and noon. We think next week will be the peak, but we do sell about 20 percent of our items once school starts a well,” Vandonk said.

Local organizations are also asking shoppers to consider helping others. Both Walmart and the Salvation Army have donation bins set up across the city. Walmart’s campaign is called Fill a Bus. There are cardboard buses set up around local stores where shoppers can drop donated supplies.

“We are attempting to fill a school bus from Allen County and donate the products to local kids. Learning is a key and if kids can’t afford basic school supplies, we feel like they’re at a disadvantage,” Vandonk said.

The local Salvation Army is also sponsoring a campaign to help students in need. It’s called Tools for School. This is the 12th year for the program. There are 28 red bins set up across the city at various locations like Walgreens. The goal is to give 1000 area students school supplies. The program sponsors students of ages, ranging from kindergarten through seniors in high school. Social Services Director for the Salvation Army, Tim Smith, said their numbers are lower than in years past. He said they have enough supplies for about 700 students right now, and the collection ends next week.

“We are down a little bit, so we’re asking anybody that is willing and able, if they can get out there and just buy a few supplies, it means that they’re helping out a kid. If you go out there while you’re buying supplies for your own kids, and you just buy maybe a notebook and a backpack and throw it into a barrel, that’s a difference you’re going to make to your neighbor,” Smith said.

Tools for School runs through Friday, August 8th and Fill a Bus ends Friday, August 22nd.

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