03/03/10 — Partnership book-bag program looking for help with donations

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Partnership book-bag program looking for help with donations

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 3, 2010 1:46 PM

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Jessalyn Thomas, a student at Meadow Lane Elementary School, receives a book bag of school supplies from The Partnership for Children of Wayne County, which sponsors the kindergarten book-bag program each year.

There is nothing like watching a child's eyes light up on kindergarten registration day, when he is handed a bright blue book bag filled with books and school supplies.

"It's a tangible thing for the kids to know that they're going to kindergarten," said Cristy Barnes, program specialist at The Partnership for Children of Wayne County, which annually sponsors the kindergarten book-bag program.

The program has been in existence for the past eight years, but with cutbacks in funding this year, is in danger of being eliminated.

"We're struggling," said Valerie Wallace, Partnership early care and education director. "We're really struggling to be able to supply the items that go into the bookbags. But we'll continue doing it because we have great feedback."

The effort has been beneficial on many levels, she explained.

Among the items stocked in the book bag are an English or Spanish version of "Getting Ready for Kindergarten" -- which contains helpful information about math, science, social skills, healthy ideas and parenting tips -- as well as a pack of crayons, scissors and glue and an early reading book. Information is also included about other agencies that provide services for children and families.

"We feel they're important -- children need certain skills when they go to school," she said. "Some children don't have scissors, some don't have books in their homes. The activities (provided), we feel like are developmentally appropriate."

She estimated that between 800 and 1,000 bookbags are given out each year. On the day of kindergarten registration, Partnership staff help with the distribution at elementary schools around the county.

It's been a well-received effort, she said, and part of the reason the Partnership, which also encompasses Smart Start, exists.

"We believe one of the missions of Smart Start is to help every child be prepared to go to kindergarten and be successful," she said. "These are just some of the tools to assist them."

In the past, civil groups and businesses have been forthcoming with donations to keep the book-bag program in operation. But the economic climate has curtailed some of the giving, Ms. Wallace said.

"We're going to go out, probably seeing if we can talk to some organizations," she said. "Kindergarten registration is April 23 (and) we need this month to be placing our orders."

Even $50 will help, she said. Cost for the whole project usually runs between $4,000 and $5,000.

Of course, for those unable to give monetarily, there are other ways to help, Ms. Wallace said.

"If somebody wants to come out and see what the project's all about, we have to pack the book bags," she said.

Regardless of how quickly funds come in, though, Ms. Wallace said every effort will be made to continue distributing the book bags to eager kindergartners.

"We're going to do the project no matter what we have,' she said. "We're looking at other ways we can fund it and try to be creative. We feel like it's good and it helps bring recognition to the Partnership.

"If we can help the community out and they can help us out, that would be great."

For more information on donating, contact Ms. Wallace at 735-3371 ext. 231.