Tag Archives: Virginia

Making Memories with Back to School Shopping

According to the National Retail Federation, last year’s back to school shopping reached $27 million. It is the second largest shopping season for retailers, after the winter holidays. In fact, the beginning of a new school year is a little like Christmas; the children are excited, and everything is shiny and new. But just like during the holiday season, many families wince at the economic pinch they feel as fall approaches, having to stock up on school supplies for their children at the close of summer break.

Receiving new school supplies at the beginning of the school year helps sponsored children feel ready to learn!

The Pride of Having New Shoes

Most of us have fond memories of back to school shopping – the happiness of opening a new box of crayons, with their bright colors, waxy smell, and perfect pointy tips; the fun of choosing spiral-bound notebooks with your favorite movie or television characters; the pride of having new shoes. However, for impoverished parents and guardians, these are memories they can’t afford to make with their children.

Over the years, as I have traveled to our affiliated schools in the United States and talked with our dedicated volunteer coordinators, I have often heard that back to school time is difficult, and often very stressful for the families in the communities we serve.

Our Back to School Fund helps kids, especially those still waiting hopefully for sponsors of their own, to experience the happiness of getting the things they need to have a great start to the school year.

When a summer electric bill is due or food stamps have run out, or the old car needs a repair so you can get to your part time job at the mini mart on time, getting your child new clothing and supplies for school is something that gets moved to the back of the line. And if there is a big brother or sister who needs new clothes and supplies as well, then the cost has doubled. These items may be essential for kids, but they can also be impossible for parents to afford.

We know that receiving a new outfit and school supplies provides concrete benefits above and beyond confidence and self-esteem – these items help kids stay on track to attend school regularly and to keep up with their classmates. Giving them the tools to learn sets them up for success for the entire school year.

Our Back to School Fund helps our coordinators stock cabinets full of supplies for children for when they return to school from summer break.

Wanting to Fit In

In addition to poverty, many of the children we serve are also dealing with some kind of trauma. The family situation may be chaotic and unhappy. Yet, while coping with poverty and instability, the children in our program want to look and feel just like any other kid. They want to fit in. Imagine the joy on a little girl’s face when she receives a new backpack emblazoned with Disney princesses, when she has never had a new book bag to start school; for once, she feels “normal”.

In the midst of their struggles, Children Incorporated and our caring sponsors and donors serve as a safety net. Our Back to School Fund helps kids, especially those still waiting hopefully for sponsors of their own, to experience the happiness of getting the things they need to have a great start to the school year. Your contributions will bring happiness, hope, and success to many children in need.

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HOW DO I DONATE TO THE BACK TO SCHOOL FUND?

You can donate to the Back to School Fund in one of two ways – call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members, or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and donate to the Back to School Fund.

written by Renée Kube

Renée oversees Children Incorporated’s work in the United States – from the rural southeast and southwest; to the urban areas of Detroit, New Orleans, and our nation’s capital – and even in our own backyard, Richmond, Virginia. She works closely with our U.S. Projects Specialist and an outstanding network of over 100 volunteer coordinators at our program sites.

» more of Renée's stories

A New Playground and New Supplies for Students in Richmond

Last November, Children Incorporated staff members Renée Kube, Shelley Oxenham, and Chuck Smith helped rebuild a playground at G.H. Reid Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia, where we partner with Communities in Schools of Richmond (CIS) to support sponsored children in the Richmond area, near our headquarters. Just a few months prior, over summer break, the old playground was set on fire, and it spread around the equipment, melting and disfiguring most of it, and leaving the 750 Richmond public school children with few options for outdoor play.

Partners in Rebuilding

Fun supplies makes for a good time for kids

A few of the donated supplies for kids at G.H. Reid Elementary

Renée, our Director of U.S. Programs, explained that the playground rebuild project was able to happen thanks KaBOOM, a national nonprofit that builds playgrounds, especially in low-income areas. The CarMax Foundation also stepped up to contribute funds and materials for the build, and Renée attended the volunteer work day, along with her Children Incorporated coworkers Shelley, U.S. Programs Specialist, and Chuck, U.S. Sponsorship Manager. About 250 volunteers built the playground from the ground up in just one day. One of the jobs Renée, Shelley, and Chuck were assigned was painting maps and game boards onto the playground surface.

A Big Initiative

By the end of May, we had $1,000 to donate to G.H. Reid, and we couldn’t wait to present the check to them, as well as contribute some supplies to get them started.

In early 2017, Children Incorporated promoted Renée, Shelley, and Chuck’s story about helping to rebuild the playground. We took that opportunity to mention another initiative as well: we wanted to provide additional funding to the school for the playground’s upkeep, such as laying new mulch and repainting, which it would be in need of at the end of the school year. But by early spring, that initiative grew beyond just helping with maintenance, thanks to a special sponsor, Micah Greer – it turned into a campaign to raise funds to purchase playground supplies as well.

Micah is the founder of Operation Optimist, a web-based clothing company in Austin, Texas, and he is a personal trainer. Micah has been a sponsor through Children Incorporated for more than a year, and he decided to take his involvement to new heights by making the generous offer to donate ten percent of all of his merchandise sales to our organization. When Micah sent Children Incorporated a check for $500 in April, we decided we would use the funds to purchase supplies for children to use in support of healthy living, since that’s one of Micah’s primary focuses. And we asked donors to match it – which they happily did! By the end of May, we had $1,000 to donate to G.H. Reid, and we couldn’t wait to present the check to them, as well as contribute some supplies to get them started.

Presenting the check to our volunteer coordinator to purchase even more playground supplies for the fall

The Dream List

With the funding in place, Renée asked for a “dream list” of playground supplies from G.H. Reid, which was provided by Mr. Vickers, the physical education teacher there. Mr. Vickers told our volunteer coordinator, Sydney Capito, that the children could use detachable hurdles, a handled parachute, dumbbells, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, kick balls, and hula-hoops. Renée purchased some of the items, including a flag football set and wiffle ball bats. We were so excited to take fun supplies to the school last week, and to present a check to Sydney, who knows the children will be thrilled to have all this new gear to play with in the upcoming school year.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN RICHMOND, VIRGINIA?

You can sponsor a child in Richmond in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our Sponsorship Specialists, or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Volunteers Restore School Playground Destroyed by Arson

Someone set fire to the playground matting at G.H. Reid Elementary School last summer. The fire spread around the equipment, melting and disfiguring most of it, and leaving the 750 Richmond, Virginia public school children with few options for outdoor play.

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But when bad things happen, good people often start showing up to help. Hundreds of volunteers from various Richmond organizations, including Children Incorporated, stepped up to help out last November.

Together, they rebuilt the playground in just one day.

Community support

Renée Kube, director of U.S. Programs for Children Incorporated, explained that the project was led by KaBoom, a national nonprofit that builds playgrounds, especially in low-income areas.

But when bad things happen, good people often start showing up to help.

“We had been told by our Volunteer Coordinator at the school that funding had been secured from KaBoom,” she said. “But KaBoom requires community buy-in: additional community funding and also hands-on help so what they really needed from us was warm bodies to come and work all day.”
They also needed maintenance funding and Children Incorporated pledged to provide that as well.

A one-of-a-kind design

But it was the children who designed the playground, which was based on ideas and drawings submitted by students at the school. Because the children created their own ideas and voted on what they wanted, the Reid Elementary School playground is one-of-a-kind.

img_9088The CarMax Foundation and KaBoom put in most of the upfront money and materials and on November third, Kube turned up to work, along with her Children Incorporated co-workers Shelley Oxenham, U.S. Programs Specialist; and Chuck Smith, U.S. Sponsorship Manager.

They were among about 250 volunteers who built the playground from the ground up in just one day. One of the jobs Kube, Oxenham, and Smith were tasked with was painting maps and game boards onto the playground surface.

A global concern

They painted maps of the United States and of the world, a hopscotch board and other game lines on the blacktop. Fortunately, Kube said, they didn’t have to be experts on global geography in order to get the maps down.

“KaBoom sent people out the day before to plan out where things would go,” she said. “They decided where to put the monkey bars and swings and they drew out the outline of the maps for us.”

“It was tremendously exciting,” she said. “The kids were peeking out the windows to watch it going up; and at the end of the day, they were leaning out of the school buses, looking at this new equipment so longingly.”

When the work team arrived on November 3rd, they painted the maps, after some redesign.

“One of the volunteers looked at the map of the world and said ‘That’s not right,’” Kube recounted. “He was Dutch, and he said that part was wrong – so we said, ‘Okay, you’re in charge of Scandinavia.’”

An enthusiastic audience

In addition to the playground, the team built a swing set, a giant Connect 4 board and a trellis with a bench and cubbies. They also painted the maps and blacktop games and repainted the lines on the basketball court; and they cleared out a garden area and removed trash and debris from the site.

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While the volunteers worked, the children tried – mostly without success – to concentrate in their classes.

“It was tremendously exciting,” she said. “The kids were peeking out the windows to watch it going up; and at the end of the day, they were leaning out of the school buses, looking at this new equipment so longingly.”

“They had to wait several days for the concrete to set before they could use their new playground; but since then, it’s been well-used and appreciated,” Kube said.

Children Incorporated will provide funding to repaint and re-mulch the playground as needed – and they may even provide the manpower, too, Kube said.

Ongoing maintenance

The heavy use the playground will get is one of the things Children Incorporated has pledged to keep up with. With 750 children running across its surfaces every day, the paint won’t hold up forever – and neither will the mulch spread around it.

Children Incorporated will provide funding to repaint and re-mulch the playground as needed – and they may even provide the manpower, too, Kube said.

img_9085“We just built it in November, so maintenance is not an issue yet,” she said. “They’ll look at it at the end of the school year and see what needs to be done. We will definitely be providing funding for mulch and maintenance – and, if needed, we’ll be doing the work ourselves.”

Other community groups may put in the physical labor too, Kube said. One church in the area said they couldn’t raise maintenance funds but could provide volunteers to help spread mulch once Children Incorporated purchases it. The paint job may go the same way.

“We want to keep it attractive and we want to keep it safe,” Kube said.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN Richmond?

You can sponsor a child in Richmond, Virginia by calling our office and speaking with one of our sponsorship specialists at 1-800-538-5381 or by emailing us at sponsorship@childrenincorporated.org.