“For years, I’d skip the first three days of school. I didn’t have new things like the other kids. I figured after the first few days I could slide in unnoticed. It put me behind in my schoolwork, but it was worth it then. I can still remember how it felt.”
For this Foothill Unity Center volunteer, the memory of being too embarrassed to go back to school is still all too fresh. And that’s why she’ll be on hand for Foothill Unity Center’s 12th Annual Back-to-School Event on Thursday, August 19, at Santa Anita Park racetrack.
Last year, nearly1,700 local kids from very low income families went back to school— equipped with brand new backpacks, clothing/uniforms, school supplies, even haircuts and manicures. This year, as the tough economy puts more and more parents in desperate straits, the Center needs help to outfit over 2,000 local K-12 students.
The event is about much more than uniforms and pencils, says Center Executive Director Joan Whitenack; it’s about helping children feel good about themselves and excited about school — starting them off on a confident note that lasts the whole year.
“There’s nothing like poverty for creating low self-esteem,” she observes. “Children are quick to notice other students are wearing crisp new clothes and carrying new backpacks, pens, pencils and notebooks. Embarrassment may lead to withdrawing in class, making it much harder for them to learn.”
The entire community shares in this annual effort. About half the costs of this year’s clothing and supplies will be covered by major sponsors including Walmart, Vons Foundation, Southern California Edison and WorleyParsons. Each child will also receive a voucher toward new shoes from the Tzu Chi Foundation and a new age-appropriate book from Monrovia Reads. The day will feature dental screenings by the USC School of Dentistry, vision screenings by the Western University College of Optometry, and a ceramic art project with Paint N Play. The balance of costs must be raised through individual contributions.
While donations of school clothing and supplies are welcome, dollars allow the Center to buy far more efficiently than individuals can on their own. Just $50 provides a uniform, socks, underwear, a new backpack and school supplies for one child.
Those who prefer to purchase supplies are asked to drop them off by August 10. Checks may be mailed to Back-to-School Program, Foothill Unity Center, 415 West Chestnut Avenue, Monrovia, California, 91016. Donations can also be made securely online at foothillunitycenter.org.
For further information on Back to School needs and volunteer opportunities, call the Center at (626) 358-3486.
Foothill Unity Center provides a range of services unparalleled not only in the San Gabriel Valley, but across Los Angeles County. Operating with a small staff and a corps of dedicated volunteers, the nonprofit, nondenominational organization distributed over four million pounds of food to 3,974 unduplicated very low-income families last year. It also provides clothing, limited motel vouchers, and referrals to the homeless and people in crisis. Clients meet stringent income guidelines and are re-qualified annually. Over 94% of every dollar goes to program. For more information, call the Center at (626) 358-3486.