Helping Local Students Backpack to the Future

((PICTURED: Beloved former NC 2-1-1 coworker Danica Spencer's son lending a hand at
Fill the Bus, part of the annual School Supply Drive.))

Alleviating Need in Asheville and Buncombe County One Backpack at a Time

Nationally, over 1.36 million school age children K-12 have been identified as homeless. Buncombe County Public Schools and Asheville City Schools combined identified 800 homeless students during the 2017-2018 school year. Still there are thousands more on free and reduced lunch, seeking support to cover the basic human needs- food, shelter and clothing. That doesn’t begin to take into account items like notebooks, bookbags, pencils, erasers and rulers, yet those are necessary to a child’s health in school, necessary for their success, for their future. 
It is for these reasons that we hold an annual School Supply Drive-- to alleviate that burden and ensure that more children are prepared for school and feel welcome alongside their peers. Imagine not having a binder to hold all of the papers your teacher gives you or a set of pencils so you’re ready to go when the teacher calls like everyone else. Since 2007, with the help and support of local businesses and community members throughout Asheville and Buncombe County, the School Supply Drive has allowed more than 9,700 students to walk into their first day of school fully prepared. Because Hands On Asheville-Buncombe is able to buy supplies in bulk, that translates to over $572,000 in school supplies donated over the past six years!

Deerfield Retirement Community Comes Together to Support Local Students

“Deerfield Community residents love to participate in United Way’s School Supply Drive each year because it’s such a practical way to support local students,” shares Michelle Wooley, Director of Philanthropy at Deerfield Retirement Community. “We filled 150 backpacks last year. I multiplied the school supplies on the elementary list by 150 and Walmart filled the order. Using the big Deerfield van, I headed over and (and in the heat of a July afternoon) worked with a Walmart employee to fill it to the brim with supplies that would help 150 students start their year off the right way.”
Now in their third year participating, Deerfield residents are already looking forward to this opportunity to come together again and give back to local students in need. In fact, they’ve already marked their calendar to come together the morning before the final day with all of the backpacks and supplies they’ve pooled their funds to purchase, pack them together and send them off when they’re done.
“We choose to collect money, buying the supplies and backpacks ourselves,” Wooley shares. “We then hold a packing party and with each completed backpack we know that we are impacting student success. Coming together as a community reminds us what is possible when you work towards a common goal and we can’t wait to see how many students we can bring some love to in 2018!” 
There are several ways to participate in the School Supply Drive:
  • Make a monetary donation and your funds will be used to purchase items from the list of needs.
  • Host a drive as Deerfield is doing in your workplace or as part of a club you’re in
  • Purchase bulk supplies and let us pack, sort and deliver!
  • If you can't financially participate, we could use a helping hand during our annual Fill the Bus event, taking place at three Walmart locations (Bleachery Rd., Hendersonville Rd. and Weaverville) July 14, 2018, 9:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. Volunteer a few hours of your time!
Last year the community came together to send 2,283 students into a brand new school year ready to succeed. Your contribution not only helps alleviate economic stress on low-income families, it helps ensure that each student has an equal opportunity in the future. By contributing the necessary supplies our students need to succeed, we’re investing in the future of our community. That is why we’ve named this year’s drive the campaign to “Backpack to the Future.” Let’s ensure all of our community’s children feel prepared and supported for their future!
"I had a resident stop by my office, wanting to help but straddling a lot of different family and financial responsibilities. She’s not able to donate but is so excited about showing up to fill these backpacks," shared Wooley. "It’s one morning of the year, not a weekly commitment, and because of that she is able to help. She has such a heart for kids and I’m so glad that this project affords her the opportunity to step out and contribute. We do have residents who need to budget carefully, so knowing they can give $30 to fill a pack and change a student’s life brings them joy!"