School supply donations help children prepare for a successful year

The beginning of a new school year is a little like Christmas. For the most part, the kids are excited and everything is shiny and new. And, as during the holidays, the economic pinch will undoubtedly evoke a few financial winces as parents stock up on school supplies for their children.

The National Retail Federation reports that the average student spent about $94 on school supplies in 2007. Although the cost of backpacks, notebooks, binders, lunchboxes, calculators, crayons and colored pencils add up, these items are essential to starting the school year right. For some families though, there just isn't enough money in the budget to buy them, essential or not.

Students who are ill prepared from the get-go don't hold out much hope for a promising school year, lacking confidence and self-esteem because they don't have as much as other, more fortunate children.

But, as during traditional holidays, back-to-school can be a great time to give back.

The Office Depot Foundation, which serves as the primary charitable giving arm of Office Depot, is just one example, providing 25,000 backpacks to charitable organizations and schools in South Florida this year. "By placing backpacks containing essential school supplies into the hands of children, we are giving them important tools they need to start school with confidence – and to succeed throughout the year," says Foundation president Mary Wong.

Most support organizations will begin distribution of school supplies to families in need in early August, so drop off your donations soon.

But if you like to wait until teachers specify their classroom, you won't miss your chance to give. Chris Polzer of the Cooperative Feeding Program says supplies are welcome all year long. "There is always someone who comes to us after the school year has started. We never hold on to anything very long," he says.

You can also donate supplies directly to your child's school. It doesn't get much easier than that.Remember to take advantage of the tax-free week, Aug. 2-8, on school supplies less than $10 and clothing and backpacks less than $50.

Family Central suggests the following items to help benefit a child for the upcoming school year:BackpackGlue sticksCrayons (regular and large)Pens, pencils and erasersWide-ruled notebook paperComposition notebooksRulersScissors (for all ages)Markers and colored pencilsFolders

If you would like to donate a backpack filled with school supplies, Family Central offers recommendations based on grade level. Label backpacks with a sticker or tag identifying gender and possible grade.

Kindergarten through second grade: Folders, construction paper, pencil box, pencils, erasers, small scissors, glue stick, large crayons and markers, composition notebook, ruler, smaller size backpack

Third through fifth grade: Folders, notebook, wide-ruled notebook paper, index cards, pencil box, pencils, pens, erasers, crayons, markers, colored pencils, scissors, ruler, small dictionary

Sixth through 12th grade: Folders, notebook, notebook paper, spiral notebook, glue stick, pens, pencils, erasers, markers, colored pencils, dictionary, small pocket calculator, protractor, scissors, index cards, ruler

Where to Donate

Florida Marlins vs. Chicago CubsSat., Aug. 16, 7 p.m.Dolphin Stadium305-626-7470All general school supplies accepted.

Family Central 3111 S Dixie Highway, Suite 222, West Palm Beach 561-514-3300Attn: Ben Wilcox

Family Central 10800 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 440, Miami305-981-9897Attn: Wendy Salomon

Family Central, Inc.840 SW 81st Ave., North Lauderdale954-724-3859Attn: Mary Monahan

Cooperative Feeding Program1 NW 33rd Terrace, Fort Lauderdale954-792-2328Attn: Jillian Corbin or Chris Polzer

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