August is right around the corner, and families across the county are struggling to provide their children with quality school supplies. 

On the north side of town, organizations like Interfaith Community Services, the Amphi Foundation and the Marana Chamber of Commerce are working hard to provide help for countless students and their families ahead of the new school year.

Founded in 1985, ICS is a nonprofit which delivers a variety of services to the community through elder assistance and transportations, a food bank and the yearly back to school event, Gifts of Love.

“ICS helps people in-need to have stable and independent lives and meet their basic needs, like, housing, food, medicine, back to work items, in addition to a pathway of self-sufficiency,” said Deborah Carr, ICS philanthropy and public relations director.

Gifts of Love has been around for more than a decade, and has served around 15,000 children from Kindergarten through high school. Some of the provided include backpacks, binders, notebooks, scissors, markers and rulers. According to Carr, ICS researches school supply lists to provide materials to children depending on their grade level. Supplies are donated by members of the community.

The price of each backpack full of supplies can reach $100 in total value, a burden relieved for many families. ICS gives up to three backpacks per family.

“These families are focused on daily survival needs,” said ICS Social Services Director Terri Patt-Smith, in a release. “At a cost of up to $100 per child, purchasing school supplies is one more challenge and stressor that these families face. Our goal is to help lessen the burden and enable fragile children to start the new school year on a positive note, supporting their academic success.”

When it was founded, the program would reach a couple hundred children, but has grown to help 1,500 children last year. Carr said that Gifts of Love is one of ICS’ most requested services.

Carr said their mission is to help and support students so they can feel positive about themselves and are excited about the new year. Happy and confident students can better focus on their education, and their brighter futures, Carr said.  

“One in five children in the United States live in poverty, here in Tucson it’s three out of five,” Carr said. “Supporting children in their education is the key method to reducing poverty. To break the generational cycle of poverty, study after study has said education is key.”

Gifts of Love will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 1 starting at 9 a.m. at Christ the King Episcopal Church, 2800 W. Ina Road, next to the ICS northwest offices. Families will be helped on a first-come, first-served basis. Most of the low-income families also receive services through the ICS Food Bank and emergency financial assistance programs. Families are asked to bring a birth certificate and a school record to qualify for supplies. 

The Amphi Foundation has provided different resources community families in the Amphitheater Public Schools district since 1983.

With money the foundation raises every year, it funds district students and educators through a wide variety of programs, including paying for student travel vouchers, scholarships, funding for the Amphi Clothing Bank, the 21st Century Classroom initiative, mini-grants for teachers and more.

One of the foundation’s main services is to help students attend school prepared and ready to participate in activities. 

Amphi Foundation Executive Director Leah Noreng said the organization works with individual schools to provide resources to students in-need.

“We partner closely with the schools, because the school has the relationships with the students and the families and knows their greatest needs,” Noreng said.

Most of their materials also come from community donations, and the foundation partners with different organizations and business throughout the region. Supplies like pencils, pens, notebooks and binders are just a few of the things they provide.

This year, the foundation is partnering with KOVA News 4 Tucson to participate in the latter’s yearly back to school drive. The foundation will benefit from supplies dropped off on Thursday, July 26 at La Cima Middle School (5600 N. La Cañada Drive). KVOA will broadcast live from the school all day while accepting donations.

The foundation will open its clothing back, located at 3335 N. Stone Ave., on Saturday, Aug. 4, Monday, Aug. 6 and Tuesday, Aug. 7 from 8 a.m. until noon to give away clothing and school supplies as needed. Families looking for assistance must bring a referral from their school to receive aid. The foundation is also actively working with principals from each school in the Amphi district to send backpacks and other supplies. 

Every year, the foundation helps roughly 14,000 students across 21 schools. To help in that mission, the foundation is also looking for businesses and local organizations interested in acting as collection locations for school supplies.

Out in Marana, the Marana Chamber of Commerce is working to prepare students in its own region. The chamber of commerce has its own education committee, comprised of members from Pima Community College, the University of Arizona, Pima Joint Technical Education District and the Marana Unified School District. One of the programs under development is the school supply drive for the fall.

Supplies are being collected at boxes provided by Republic Services Waste Services at different local businesses for the last two months. Supplies will be collected and delivered to the MUSD district offices.

This year marks the group’s first drive, but they have plans for such efforts throughout the year to address student needs. 

Maria Angulo is a Northern Arizona University journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.

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