Back to schoolGregory, 8, is psyched about his new calculator, while his sister Sadiah, 10, is particularly enthralled with her new pens.

Sadiah didn't know the pens glowed in the dark until her father, Gregory Woods, 48, discovered them gleaming one night when the kids were in bed. "I said, 'Little Mama,' -- I call her Little Mama because she favors my Mom -- 'they glow in the dark,'" Woods says. "She smiled and said, 'That's cool.'"

The pens and the calculator came in a backpack filled with things like new pencils, notebooks and folders from the Jerry Gamble Boys & Girls Club's back-to-school celebration in Minneapolis.

"The kids love it," says Woods, a single father who works as a driver for a transportation company during the day and mentors at a recreational facility several nights a week.

Pitching In

With the back-to-school season in full swing, the Boys & Girls Clubs' school-supply drive is one of many programs underway now across the country -- spearheaded by nonprofit groups, corporations, local charities and churches -- designed to help those in need.

"In trying to work hard to provide for your family, the Boys & Girls Club has been a blessing," Woods says. "I don't know what I would do without them."

As for the free backpacks stuffed with school supplies, "you'd be surprised how much that helps," he says.

In addition to local programs, Boys & Girls Clubs of America in July kicked off its "National School Supply Drive: Staples for Students" campaign together with Staples (SPLS), the office-supplies retailer. The partnership has raised nearly $2 million since it launched in 2008.

This year, the national drive includes a partnership with DoSomething.org, a group that promotes youth volunteerism, as well ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars. The stars of the ABC show are urging teens throughout the country to collect school supplies for needy kids and drop them off at their nearest Staples store before Sept. 17.

Staples is the school-supply drive's big national sponsor among a patchwork of donors that includes corporations, local donors, grass-roots organizations and individuals.

Importance of Academics

In the run-up to the school season, these supply drives are intended, not only to ease the burden on financially-disadvantaged families, but also to send the message that academic success is tied to economic security.

"Boys & Girls Clubs are typically located in neighborhoods with the highest poverty rates and serve kids with the greatest needs," Terryl McKaye, vice president of marketing and communications with Boys & Girls Clubs of Twin Cities, tells DailyFinance.

"Many live within an environment with failing schools, where the grade rates are at a dismal level. Our big push is to try to make sure these kids are prepared and ready, and we're there to support them so they can succeed," she says. "These are kids who really want to learn and be involved."

Although the recession might be officially over, with the economy rebounding in fits and starts, "our families are the last to be affected positively by that," she says. "We want to also take some stress off the parents," many who are struggling to pay for food and housing, and don't have the money for extras like school supplies.

While Woods says he feels blessed to have a steady job, his work hours have been cut back. And when the local government was shut down for 10 days, "that stopped a lot of rides," he says, which put a strain on family finances. "I'm trying to make sure I pay my bills, take care of my kids properly, make sure they have enough to eat," he says.

A Growing Need

Local chapters of United Way Worldwide also run school-supply drives as part of the organization's June 21 Day of Action activities, a push to get Americans to volunteer in their communities.

Although United Way's school supply efforts vary by region, the organization recommends that its local chapters first gather information from community partners about what the local needs are, how supplies can be dispersed most effectively, and then recruit partners, such as area businesses, employees, schools, after-school programs and volunteer groups.

While kids from low-income families are the most likely recipients of these school-supply drives, "more children are falling into this category," Sal Fabens, director of public relations for United Way Worldwide, tells DailyFinance.

It's a sign of the times.

The recessionary climate and bleak job picture has meant more families are finding themselves in economic trouble.

In the last two years, United Way has seen a spike in calls to 2-1-1, its national social service hotline that guides those in need to organizations that offer food, housing, employment, health-care assistance and other services.

Callers include people who have lost their jobs and been unable to find another one -- often for the first time in their careers -- as well as people who now have less work, and lower paychecks as a result, Fabens says.

School Supplies Boost Self Esteem

Back to school suppliesGlow-in-the-dark pens and a nifty new calculator can go a long way in stoking a kid's healthy self-image.

"Kids look forward to stuff like that," Woods says. "Especially when they see other kids have them and they don't."

And a lack of basic school supplies can create "clouds of inferiority in their mental skies," to borrow a phrase from Martin Luther King Jr.

When a kid shows up to school without the basic necessities, even if it's through no fault of their own, they often feel lost, stigmatized and like they don't belong, McKaye says.

"It's about providing equal resources to all children," she says, noting that new school supplies are kind of rite of passage of childhood that give kids a sense of pride and a feeling of academic readiness.

As Fabens puts it, "When kids from low income families don't have adequate school supplies, it can lead them to disconnect...can lead to poor performance and can affect their long-term success" and eventually put them at risk of dropping out.

Indeed, United Way's school-supply drive is also designed to shine a spotlight on its U.S. goal of cutting the number of teens who drop out of high school in half, she says. While the national organization doesn't measure the scope of the locally run school-supply programs, the programs seem to be successful and catching on quickly, she says.

"Remember your first box of crayons?" McKaye says. "We can't expect kids to learn and do well if they don't have the tools to learn."


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183 Comments

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rjen164497

Stop buying so many TWINKIES and you can buy school supplies. America's obeseity problem is with the poor.85% of Obese America's are on some kind of Entitlement. They use their Entitlement to buy junk food, cigarettes, drugs, or booze. I have watch people use their Government card to purchase junk food for others and get cash in return. I assume the cash was less then the junk food value, but enough to buy booze or drugs. Go to any store and watch it happen. What is next from Obama? Entitlements for school supplies?

August 11 2011 at 7:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Greg Brooks ME

I confess to not reading the entire article. Just wanted to say thank you for the free school supplies. With the new burden of busing cost the pinch is really on regular folks today.

Did anyone ever think that with all the more cars on the road driving to school how much more fuel is being consumed, traffic jams. If car pooling is green then what is the new bus fee doing?

August 11 2011 at 6:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
debwschultz

As chair of the Democratic National Committee my recommendation to President Obama for the 2012 campaign will be to stop the class warfare, stop being a cry baby, stop blaming others for his own failures, and to take responsiblity for his failing economy. In this 2012 campaign we will be forthcoming and honest. No dishonesty and deception like in the 2008 campaign.

August 11 2011 at 1:57 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
grovernorquist1

My fellow republicans, i would like to thank you for tanking the economy. That should hurt the middle class some more. Us rich republicans have nothing to worry about, we've enjoyed a decade of bush tax cuts.

August 11 2011 at 1:28 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to grovernorquist1's comment
mrspelosi

To President Obama, I would like to thank you for tanking the economy. You and your wife live a life of luxury while the middle class and the poor struggle. Rich people like you have nothing to worry about. You have benefited greatly from tax cuts in the past. Now you have given yourself another tax cut. We liberals have so much jealousy and rage toward rich people like you because rich people like President Obama do not pay their fair share in taxes. And to the American people you most certainly come across as one big hypocrite.

August 11 2011 at 1:47 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
grovernorquist1

My fellow republicans, I just pick up a newsweek magazine and saw Michele Backmann on the cover. She looks just as crazy as us republicans do.

August 11 2011 at 1:08 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
grovernorquist1

My fellow republicans, we must extend the bush tax cuts so we can cause more wealth disparity in America. We must destroy the middle class!

August 11 2011 at 1:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
grovernorquist1

I'am so happy the tea party downgraded our credit rating. way to go tea party!

August 11 2011 at 1:00 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
grovernorquist1

I'am so glad to see that all the republicans that got picked for the super committy have sign my pledge to never raise taxes on the rich. My fellow republicans we must not let the dems close those loop holes which help the rich to pay less in taxes. Our war on the middle class is working, we must destroy the middle class!! Remember its our goal to have a two class society the rich and the poor..........PS.....I'am your messiah.

August 11 2011 at 12:17 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to grovernorquist1's comment
mrspelosi

The Obama's will be glad about the pledge not to raise taxes on the rich Bushy/Somey/Grover. We liberals despise greedy money grubbing wealthy people like the Obama's. President Obama even gave himself his own tax cut. The Obama's take money away from poor families, and they just continue living their lives of luxury
off the backs of the poor working people. Right Bushy. I know you agree dear.

August 11 2011 at 12:31 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
dencuddy

Instead of Rick Perry worrying about education he's pandering to the religious nutters, no plan, good hair.

August 10 2011 at 11:35 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dencuddy's comment
mrspelosi

It's apparent you have not yet received treatment for your head injury dear.

August 11 2011 at 12:15 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
bumper870

Some of our elected officials that want to cut entitlement programs should read theses stories. Better yet flood their offices with these stories. Most are not on welfare because they want to be. They have lost Good tax paying Jobs. The owned part of the American Dream. they lost their house (homes) they had paid into for years. Congress let this happen. The loan companies foreclosed and wrote the house of for no return on their money.
If they could take a loss why didn't help the owners keep their house by refinancing. They kept raising the interest rate till they could not pay any more.
Under Clinton he left with money ahead.. Bush spent every bit of it. The left with the country in melt down. Went to war on a Lie.
Obama was not in office yet He could not do anything. Bush - The Republicans, and Tea party would not do anything.
The Tea party has caused the republicans to block every move Obama wants to do to turn things around. We need Jobs on our shores.
If we start treating People that are on Welfare like second rate citizens we will have what London is having now. The people there are at their wits end. If the Government they have paid taxes to for years can not help them were else can they go. Thanks for McCain and the women that flow the banner for speaking up for what is right. We need more. Speak up until these people leave office. They are making it miserable for us they need to feel uncomfortable to the point they really see the truth.
Most are so blinded by political ideals they can not see the truth. They can not see people needs. It used to be the needs of the people of this great country came first. Don't vote because of what they say vote because of what the have done.

August 10 2011 at 9:46 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bumper870's comment
mrspelosi

Bumpy darling evidently that bump on the head caused you to become very confused dear.

August 11 2011 at 12:34 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply