The blush of a new school year filled with hope and promise is often tempered for families in economically challenged areas like Reading, Pennsylvania, as they struggle to equip students with basic school supplies.
Teachers often reach deep into their own pockets, spending hundreds of dollars on average during the school year, to make sure students have the tools needed to succeed in the classroom.
More schools are relying on community efforts like “Supply Our Schools,” hosted by Penske Truck Leasing and Penske Logistics’s United Way at Work Committee, which donated boxes of school supplies to Laurer’s Park Elementary and Riverside Elementary schools.
“This helps tremendously. Some students come to school with no supplies. No backpack. Any kind of donation is a help for our students,” said Julie Weitzel, assistant principal at Riverside Elementary.
The United Way of Berks County helped connect Penske to schools, which provided lists of the most-needed items.
“The wish list from the school was extensive,” said Julia Shaw, UWAW committee coordinator. “From tissues and hand sanitizer to the basics of paper and pencils, we requested everything the kids need to have a happy and healthy school year.”
During the three-week drive, associates donated 2,195 school supply items, including 118 packs of pencils, 178 boxes of crayons, 102 packs of pens, 50 Dry Erase boards, 100 rulers and 71 backpacks.
At Laurer’s Park, where teachers spend between $300 and $800 a year on supplies for their students, Principal Gordon Hoodak said the donations will help free up funds to pay for other much-needed items, such as books for the school library.
“Every year my budget goes down,” Hoodak said. “I can’t give my kids what I want to give them.”
He praised the generosity of Penske associates who provided so much to his students.
The donations are symbolic of Penske associates’ deep commitment to the community, Shaw said.
“Our associates have tremendous care for our community, and within that community they see the potential in the younger generation,” Shaw said. “Education is important to Penske associates, and helping children be successful is our common mission.”
For Lamont Paschall, a Central Reservations internet sales representative, who attended Riverside Elementary as a child, the drive took on special meaning.
“It touches home,” Paschall said, as a group of students gathered near him. “When you are that age, you don’t realize what you don’t have. It’s very exciting and humbling to be able to do this for them.”
By Bernie Mixon