Volunteers fill back packs with back-to-school supplies for needy families as part of worldwide Serve Day 2017.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Donated back packs bring hope to kids in need

When Angel Washington tied her laces and headed out the door on a recent Saturday morning, she had no idea the menial tasks of packing book bags would have such a lasting impact on Sheena Davenport, a 32-year-old single mother.

Washington spent hours stuffing crayons, index cards and pencils into kids’ backpacks when she volunteered at Rainbow Housing Assistance Corporation at Caswyk Trail in Marietta. Washington, a first-time volunteer, was participating in an international church philanthropy event, Serve Day 2017, on July 15.

Donning matching red T-shirts and braving soaring temperatures, nearly 400 volunteers from Trinity Chapel, a church in Powder Springs, joined 408 other churches across the globe, including 15 others in metro Atlanta, to provide for the needs of their communities.

The volunteers helped in a range of activities from packing school bags to painting worn facilities, spreading pine straw at schools and delivering groceries to senior citizens.

“I am appreciative of anything that I can get,” said Davenport, whose children will get some of the school supplies. “Being that I have an older kid in high school, it’s tough. Because they need things like scientific calculators which can be expensive.”

Back to school shopping can be taxing for parents and the supply lists seem to grow every year. Here is a sample of one school’s requirements for new kindergartners. Parents can order a prepacked box or shop on their own.

Trinity saw the strain that low-income families and many under-funded local schools would experience for the upcoming school year as a serious issue in the community.

So, it chipped in to assist Rainbow Housing address its growing list of kids in need of school supplies.

“I have a pulse on the needs of the community,” said Andrew Guerrier, Trinity’s missions and outreach pastor who planned the event.

Each bag packed that morning will go to a child in the Caswyk community, a low-income apartment complex in Marietta where many residents receive housing assistance through the federal housing choice voucher program.

“It’s all about the future of the kids,” said Barbara Johnson, the director of Rainbow Housing at Caswyk Trail.

Barbara Johnson, the director of Rainbow Housing Assistance Corporation at Caswyk Trail, was grateful for all the volunteers who helped prepare back-to-school back packs for children at the Marietta housing complex that her nonprofit serves.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In the city of Marietta, the average household earns around $44,000 a year. Most families in the Caswyk community earn even less. Some, according Johnson, have little to no income, meaning meals are hard to afford, much less notebooks and pens.

Almost 68 percent of students who go to Marietta Middle School where Davenport’s son goes eat a free or reduced lunch — a need the Rainbow Housing also tries to help. The charity offers free lunch to any child between the ages of 1 and 18 because meals are so hard to come by in the community.

Davenport, a medical assistant, is among 47 other parents of students in the neighborhood who will benefit from the generosity of the volunteers.

For them, a simple backpack filled with supplies relieves a financial burden associated with the back-to-school season.

Her back-to-school budget for her two children is $200, way below the national average of $674, according to the National Retail Federation. The federation estimates that this year $29.5 billion will be spent on back-to-school shopping, a significant rise from last years’ totals.

For families such as the Davenports, that’s just not possible.

That’s why events, such as Serve Day 2017, are so important. Davenport said she was so moved by the generosity of the volunteers she wanted to give them a hug.

“It makes me appreciate people who go out of their way to be there for other people in their time of need,” she said.

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