Help needed for Operation Back to School SanTan Sun News

Help needed for Operation Back to School

Help needed for Operation Back to School
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SANTAN SUN NEWS STAFF

Organizers are still looking for more shoes and other types of support for Operation Back to School, a one-day event that helps children and teens in need get school supplies and other essentials to start the academic year on a strong note.

The event — 6:30-10:30 a.m. July 20 at Chandler High School, 350 N. Arizona Ave. — is organized by the city Diversity Office and For Our City Chandler.

“The idea is for one-stop shop for kids to get prepared for school,” said Niki Tapia, city community resources and diversity supervisor. “We usually have over 50 organizations participating in some way or another through donation drives, planning committees, sponsorship funding, the community resource area.”

Each student who shows up will receive a new backpack filled with school supplies including pencils, pens, highlighters, spiral notebooks and other items.

While supplies last, students can also get socks, underwear and shoes, as well as clothes that can be worn for school uniforms including red or white shirts, as well as khaki shorts. The Salvation Army and Mathew’s Crossing Food Bank help collect shoes for youths.

Last year about 950 pairs of shoes were given to children and teens at Operation Back to School, Tapia said. Tennis shoes in any sizes for boys and girls are great to give students.

“We’re always looking for shoe donations,” Tapia said.

More opportunities to volunteer at Operation Back to School are also available. The event could also use more cash scholarships so organizers can buy more school supplies to give youths.

Shear Outreach, a nonprofit organization, is coordinating free haircuts for children and teens who come to Operation Back to School. The more hair stylists who come to the event, the more haircuts can be given. About 75 haircuts can be given and those who are first in line get served first.

“The event runs so well each year,” Tapia said. “We’re trying to fix holes. Every year we find better ways to do it.”

For Our City Chandler is a group of faith-based organizations, nonprofits and business community representatives that help Chandler.

Children are not as engaged in school if they begin the year lacking the supplies and materials they need, Tapia said. Operation Back to School helps them begin their classes on a positive note.

“They’re going on their first day and they’re excited,” Tapia said. “It’s going to be a better opportunity, a better experience.”

It is hard to know exactly how many children and teens who live in Chandler do not have the financial means to buy supplies they need for school, she said.

However, about seven or eight schools in Chandler are Title I schools, meaning they have a high percentage of students whose household income is low enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, Tapia said.

“There are people who are struggling in every zip code,” she said.

Last year almost 2,200 families and students from 43 different schools participated in Operation Back to School.

Students must have some connection to Chandler — either living in the city or going to school in the city — in order to be eligible for the free items at the event. Parents should bring a form of identification with them.

Besides providing supplies, several organizations and companies will provide information about community resources including reduced-price Internet plans and Chandler Public Library offerings at Operation Back to School.

To learn more and volunteer call Tapia at 480-782-2214 or visit forourcitychandler.org/operation-back-to-school

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