Many North Texas parents struggled with the decision to send their children back to in-person learning this school year due to the delta variant, but they were also faced with the rising cost of school supplies. The average cost was expected to be as much as $270 per student this year, according to a study conducted by KPMG. Many of the families who turn to Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas (JFS) for support are still reeling from the financial stress of the pandemic. The cost of new school supplies could mean not putting food on the table or being late on rent.
Carlos Lopez, CEO and Founder of Mañana Management Company, Inc., saw a story on the local news about children going to school without backpacks and wanted to help. As a strong supporter of JFS, he called on his friends and network to help raise funds for the cause. Soon after, these friends and Lopez helped raise more than $4,000 toward school supplies and more backpacks after Lopez donated the first 500. Additional funds came in as a match from The Morton H. Meyerson Family Foundation, resulting in a total of over $6,000 in support raised for the project.
“I just couldn’t understand [how kids could go without backpacks], so I decided to do what I could. It is always about the kids in my eyes. The rest is history,” Lopez said.
With only two weeks between the delivery of the donated supplies and the beginning of the Dallas ISD school year, JFS called on our incredible volunteers to help get the backpacks ready to distribute at the coming weekly Drive-Thru Food Distributions. They stuffed the bags with pencil cases, spiral notebooks, folders, pencils, highlighters, glue sticks, crayons, scissors, and other essential school supplies.
On August 12th and August 19th, hundreds of families lined up at JFS to prepare their children for the school year. Tiny faces peered out of backseats to eagerly ask for a backpack in their favorite color. For some, this was the first time they had ever received a new one instead of secondhand. For others, this was their first backpack ever. In total, almost 700 backpacks were distributed between the two weeks.
“The backpacks were such a special addition to our weekly Food Distribution. I could feel the joy of those days, and it was so visible in the smiles of our clients, their children, and our incredibly dedicated volunteers,” said Maya Cohen, Food Pantry and Community Outreach Manager at JFS.
Barbie Furman, a JFS Food Pantry volunteer, was especially touched by the occasion and was reminded of why she started volunteering. “I am so grateful to be a volunteer at JFS and witness these priceless moments… the blessing that JFS is to our community is truly indescribable.”
Because the bags came in a variety of colors and patterns, the kids could choose the one that fit their style. They would be impossible to distinguish from a backpack sold at typical retailers, which was essential for children from struggling families to feel like they fit in. No kid wants to have a tattered backpack on the first day of school.
“I am so grateful that JFS was able to help us out,” one JFS client said. “It seems like such a simple thing, but to us, it means everything. This is my daughter’s first year at school, and I’m glad she’ll be prepared like everyone else.”
With so many things to worry about this year, it comes as a relief that school supplies won’t be one of them. As the kids head into the classroom this week, some for the first time in almost two years, parents can rest assured that they are prepared and ready to learn. And it’s all thanks to donors and volunteers like Carlos, who see a problem and jump into action to make a difference.