Arundel program provides needy pupils with supplies

August 13, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

When it comes to school supplies, Jackie Mislyan has been having the hardest time this summer finding reinforcements.

Those little white adhesive rings that fit neatly around the holes in loose-leaf paper have eluded her for weeks. But she knows the search is worth it because she's helping kids get ready for school.

"I think most of us don't understand that there are a lot of kids that don't have the basics," said Mislyan, a donor with Anne Arundel County's Back to School Program. "It can really get expensive."

Since 1989, the county Department of Social Services and the county Board of Education have sponsored the program, which aims to match donors - individuals, groups or businesses - with children from low-income families who need school supplies.

Social Services officials said the goal of the program is to make children feel good about school and make sure they have the tools needed to learn. More than 7,247 children in the county qualify for federal assistance, according to county statistics.

`Desperately need donors'

"It really helps build their self-esteem," said Christine Poulsen, special programs manager for the Department of Social Services. "But we desperately need donors if we're going to match these children."

Poulsen said that - with two weeks before school starts - the program has 400 elementary schoolchildren in need of supplies who have not been matched with a donor. She said the requests keep arriving as the school year approaches.

The program has matched 1,524 elementary schoolchildren with donors this year, Poulsen said.

Last year, the program helped nearly 3,000 pupils in the form of backpacks brimming with supplies and $10,000 in cash donations from donors. The cash was used to provide $25 Office Depot gift certificates to pupils not matched with individual donors, so they could do their own shopping.

Donors are sent children's names, grade and school and a list of needed supplies. They are asked to shop at their convenience and deliver the supplies inside a backpack to the child's school office between Aug. 20 and 24.

Cash also needed

Donors who are too busy to shop can make a cash donation to the Back to School Fund. Organizers will ensure that supplies are purchased and delivered to area schools.

Mislyan, a retired National Security Agency employee who lives in Howard County with her husband, is shopping for five Arundel children this year. She said she persuaded friends to become donors for seven other pupils.

A first-time donor, Mislyan has been reviewing her school supplies list and stocking up on folders, colored pencils, scissors, crayons and compasses.

"In some cases, if you don't have the compass, you're not going to be able to do the work," she said. "The program is a great idea. I find it rewarding."

To make a cash donation or become a donor for the Back to School Program, call 410-269-4462.

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