Tips for a Successful School Supply Drive

As I have done in past years, I’m volunteering with the Amherst H. Wilder Tools for Schools supply drive, which helps ensure kids have the supplies they need to succeed in school. The primary reasons for my involvement are two fold. One, I cannot stand the thought of children beginning a new school year without the proper learning supplies. And two, as an author and former teacher, I believe strongly that part of that fundamental learning includes reading and writing.

Every year I adopt a Wilder program to provide kids enrolled with supplies. This year I’m excited to donate 75 filled backpacks. However, as readers know, I fractured my elbow over Memorial Day weekend in a fall. I really thought I would be healed by now! That unfortunately isn’t the case. But, I’ve gotten wonderful assistance in preparation for my largest donation to date. My Pilates instructor’s son, Charlie, has helped me shop for supplies and put packing boxes together. And my good friend Paula, her daughter Sophie, and husband Eric will help get those backpacks filled. The hardest part for me is not being able to do any heavy lifting.

Here are my top tips for engaging in your own back-to-school drive:

  • Find a backpack program seeking volunteers and/or supply donations. This might be in your own school district. Every community has needs, and as the Wilder Foundation can attest, those needs are growing.
  • Seek out volunteers, especially those who have a strong belief in education.
  • If you’re organizing your own drive to assist a specific program, get a list of supplies needed by the school for specific grades.
  • Have a budget.
  • Start early buying supplies. I generally start my shopping right after the Fourth of July. Target and Walmart both have wide selections.
  • Buy in bulk. Ordering supplies (particularly backpacks and soft pencil cases) in bulk stretches dollars. I’ve had very good luck with Bags In Bulk, which offers sturdy products. For notebooks and folders in bulk I’ve used Bulk Office Supply.
  • Pack backpacks in boxes and label them for easier distribution.
  • Deliver to designated site.

The feeling I get from knowing a child will not go without school supplies is unlike any other. If anyone else reading the blog participates in a school supply drive, please send me photos, which I’ll happily post.


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