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Local students benefit from donated school supplies.

It may feel like we just made it to the half-way point of the summer, but school starts in less than a month. That means it’s time for new school supplies: pencils, notebooks, erasers, backpacks, new shoes and new clothes. But for some families, it’s just not affordable. 

That’s why there are programs in place to help students get what they need to start the school year. The Amphi Foundation and Interfaith Community Services offer help to students who need supplies like clothing or shoes, among other services.

“I like the idea of our kids growing up knowing their community believes in them and supports their education,” said Leah Noreng, executive director of the Amphi Foundation. 

The Amphi Foundation, serving students in Amphitheater Public Schools, offers assistance in many ways. One of them is a clothing bank that provides clean, gently used or new articles of clothing to students of all sizes. Parents can request a piece of clothing for their child from a clothing bank liaison at the school. That piece of clothing can then be picked up at the school by the parent or sent home with the child. Likewise, parents can receive a referral form from the liaison to bring to the clothing bank and pick out clothing for their child. 

This year, the clothing bank opens for the school year on Aug. 10 and 17. Students can visit the clothing bank four times a year—once every quarter—and pick an assortment of clothing.

Amphi’s Shoes to Smiles program also provides new shoes and socks to students. The program, founded by Trindy Leforge, funds a field trip to go shoe shopping with Leforge and her volunteers. Students pick out two new pairs of shoes and a package of socks each. This year, the first Shoes to Smiles trip will be on Aug. 16.

“I love the Amphi Foundation because of the depth and breadth of our programs,” Noreng said. “We’re trying to target all of the different areas where there might be needed. We’re reaching students with their basic needs, but also with their classroom and technology needs.” 

Amphi encourages students who want to take part in electives and sports. They offer support for kids who want to play sports by waiving athletic fees and can take care of travel expenses for students competing in academic competitions, like Odyssey of the Mind. 

Because of Amphi programs, schools are welcoming makers spaces equipped with technology, sewing machines and power tools. They’re spaces for students to work with their hands, create, problem solve and play. It’s hands-on learning, and in line with Amphi’s “hands on, minds on” approach to education.

All Amphi programs are funded through the community with no government or federal support. They are writing grants, getting corporate sponsors, and holding fundraisers. They rely heavily on volunteer support from the community.  

“It’s a huge district,” Noreng said. “We start at Grant Road and go all the way to Catalina. [Students are] coming from the poorest to the wealthiest zip codes in the city and everything in between. We’re having an impact in every school in varying ways.”

And for basic school supplies, Interfaith Community Services is doing a backpack giveaway on July 26 starting at 9 a.m. as part of its Gifts of Love Program. The organization will give away about 1,000 backpacks at its Ina Road and east side locations. The backpacks are stuffed with grade-specific supplies, so kids in grade ranges receive the appropriate tools to be successful in school. 

The Cellular Connection and Wireless Zone are also running annual School Rocks backpack giveaway this July 21, from 1-4 p.m. Each participating Cellular Connection–and there are several around Tucson–is giving away 200 backpacks on a first come, first serve basis. Each backpack is filled with pencils, paper, a pencil box, glue, folders and more. 

Meredith O’Neil is a University of Arizona journalism graduate student and Tucson Local Media intern.

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