1,400 students given a hand as school starts


August 27, 2002|By Dana Klosner-Wehner | Dana Klosner-Wehner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE NEW school year began in Howard County yesterday. For many children, the first day of school means carrying new backpacks filled with new school supplies. Unfortunately, for some children that is simply a dream.

That is why the "Prepare for Success" program, coordinated by Christ Episcopal Church in Owen Brown, was begun two years ago. The program's aim is to collect and purchase school supplies for needy children in Howard County.

This year, 1,400 children walked into school with new supplies donated through the program. The idea arose three years ago, said Mike Clark, program coordinator and staff member at the church.

"Lots of folks were calling with back-to-school supply needs," said Clark, who runs the church's information referral service. "At that point, the church sponsored three schools. We discovered there was a need countywide."

"Prepare for Success" became a countywide effort last year with the National Council of Jewish Women, the Howard County government, the Sheriff's Department Community Services Division and the Columbia Association joining the cause.

This year, more than 50 volunteers worked on the project, doing everything from calling businesses for donations to collecting the donation boxes that were in Howard County libraries and Columbia village centers for six weeks.

Two weeks ago, about 30 volunteers worked for two days at the Application Research Lab, next to the Board of Education building, filling 1,400 backpacks in an assembly-line fashion.

"They [the volunteers] would barely even stop for lunch," said Linda Martin, a pupil personnel worker for Howard County schools.

"People were coming in off the streets to make donations," she said. "Women came in with babies in strollers with bags of supplies to donate because they wanted to help. The volunteers ranged in age from middle-schoolers to retired people."

Arranging the donations into piles took about four hours, said Peter Finck, a retired pupil personnel worker.

"There was a note on one of the donations that we hung on the wall for inspiration," Finck said. "It was written by a child. He said he was fortunate enough that his parents bought his school supplies. So, he saved his own money to buy these for someone else."

"This is truly a wonderful project," said Toni Volk, executive director of Congregations Concerned for the Homeless. "We have 10 families in transitional housing. Through this project, their 26 school-age children all started school with new supplies."

Martin said new supplies could mean the world to a child.

"We had a little girl who didn't want to come to school last year because she didn't have the supplies," she said. "When we handed her a brand new backpack filled with everything she needed, her face just beamed."

Businesses helped with the project. L.L. Bean donated 100 backpacks. Adidas sold "Prepare for Success" discounted backpacks for $8.50, enabling the program to buy about 1,000 backpacks with an $8,000 grant donated by St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Annapolis.

Other contributors included the Howard County Real Estate Master's Club, Horizon Foundation, Rouse Co. Foundation, Moon Family Foundation via the Columbia Foundation and Allfirst Financial. Business partners included Coca-Cola Enterprises Mid-Atlantic Division, the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County, Channel 45 WBFF-TV, Junior Editions and many others.

Steering committee members included: Debbie Yare of Howard County Children's Services; Matt Cezar of the Sheriff's Department Community Services Division; Micky Rubenstien, director of the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County; Rosalie Kane, a representative of the Howard County Chapter of National Council of Jewish Women; Linda Zumbrun, deputy director of the Department of Social Services; former school board member Barbara Rudlin; Jean F. Moon and Leslie Friedham.

"Our goal is to reach 3,000 kids next year," Clark said. "We would love to get the PTA Council and the Howard County Education Association more involved to ensure that every child is prepared to learn.

"We're delighted with the community response to this project. It clearly shows that others believe as we do. Children deserve to be properly supplied to learn."

Families in need may contact their school or the pupil personnel office at 410-313-6646. Information on "Prepare for Success": Mike Clark, 410-309-9695.

Art exhibition

The Columbia Art Center, in Long Reach Village Center, will start its fall season of gallery shows with sculptures by Marcia Wolfson Ray of Baltimore and prints by Thomasine Spore of Ellicott City. The show will run from Sept. 5 through Oct. 8. An opening reception will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 14. Admission is free.

The Columbia Art Center is at 6100 Foreland Garth.

Information: 410-730-0075.

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