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Ray of Hope begins drive for backpacks, supplies for youth
backpack pic

Ray of Hope’s annual Student Success Backpack and School Supply Drive is currently underway.

From now through the end of the month, the local non-profit organization that assist children throughout the school year is accepting donations of backpacks, school supplies, hygiene items, clothing and more.

“Many of our children are either homeless or living below the poverty level,” said Executive Director Laura Saunders. “You have to ask yourself: If we, as adults, would struggle with going to work unclean, unprepared and feeling overwhelmed — could we thrive in our workplace?”

The answer? Probably not, Saunders said.

“Our focus would not be on not being prepared for the demands of our job, worrying about the opinions of our peers, and not being able to explain why we are not able to fulfill our assigned duties – yet we expect our children to do this very thing in school,” she added.

For Ray of Hope, it’s not just about distributing the backpacks along with all the donated items.

“We monitor and help them throughout the school year,” said Saunders.

Those at Ray of Hope will meet with them during each report card period, checking on their assessed progress while offering further support through in-house programs or referring them to other children’s programs.

When referred to Ray of Hope from an agency such as CPS, the chances are the child already has a burden to carry.

“It’s our job to allow (he or she) not to carry the burden that comes from lacking in the schooling experience — education is freedom from poverty,” said Saunders.

Ray of Hope replenishes the students with backpacks, supplies and assisting in their basic needs while working with the parents to help them become more stable and self-supportive.

“Giving things away will help nobody,” Saunders said. “Monitoring, setting up a plan and accountability will help these families and mostly the children.”

She’s hoping that the needs here can be met with help of businesses, church groups, community members and service organizations in collecting school supplies through July 31.

“We want to be able to meet the needs of our community’s neediest children,” Saunders said.

Donations can be dropped off at the Ray of Hope office at 113 W. Yosemite Ave. or by calling 209.883.6255 or 209.597.0574.