It may seem like we’ve barely finished watching the Fourth of July fireworks, but in a state where kids return to the classroom in mid-August, that means we’ve already entered back-to-school season.
On Tuesday, volunteers at the Orlando-based nonprofit A Gift for Teaching — including Mayor Buddy Dyer — spent the morning filling hundreds of backpacks with notebooks, pencils, highlighters and other school supplies. But tens of thousands of more items are still needed.
“Sadly, every year [the need] just goes up and up,” said Jane Thompson, the charity’s president. “The most recent number we have is 216,000 students in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties are at risk — meaning their families live at or below the poverty level. That’s nearly 70 percent of all students in the public schools.”
About 11,000 of them are homeless.
“Every student deserves to come to school with all the supplies that they need,” Dyer said.
Toward that end, several businesses and agencies also launched supply drives this week to help students.
From now until Aug. 6, three Krispy Kreme Doughnuts locations have teamed up with the Salvation Army in Orlando to accept donated school supplies, and there’s a reward. For every item donated, you’ll get a free original glazed doughnut; a backpack filled with supplies will get you a free dozen. The participating Krispy Kreme locations are at 1031 S. Orlando Ave. in Winter Park, 4080 Millenia Blvd. in Orlando and 5310 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway in Kissimmee.
Starting Thursday, Publix shoppers in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties can make cash donations at the register that will go to A Gift for Teaching. The charity is able to leverage each dollar in donations for $10 worth of supplies. In addition, you can donate supplies 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Aug. 5 at the Back to School Expo at Seminole Towne Center Mall or host your own drive. (Go to agiftforteaching.org for details.)
Family Promise of Greater Orlando, a nonprofit organization helping homeless families, is also hosting a supply drive through Aug. 4. If you’d like to help, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-722-1550.
If you need help for your child, the biggest back-to-school event is the Aug. 6 Hope Now Back 2 School Bash at Camping World Stadium. The event — from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. — offers free haircuts, health screenings, dental screenings and 10,000 free backpacks filled with school supplies.
Last year, nearly 25,000 people turned out, including more than 9,000 students needing backpacks.
“We had about 12 left,” said founder Michael Radka. “It was close.”
He’ll have more this year.
No registration is required for the students, but if you want to donate to the event or volunteer to distribute supplies, go to hnow.org.
In Lake County, the nonprofit Anointed Community Services will give away school backpacks and supplies for children in need on Saturday. The event begins at 9 a.m. at McKinney Park, 801 Bloxam Ave. in Clermont.
Also, for school-age kids in Orange and Seminole counties, Shepherd’s Hope and Nemours Children’s Health System are partnering to provide free back-to-school physicals and other medical services for uninsured and underinsured families. From July 31 to Aug. 10, students can get general health assessments, sports physicals and vision and hearing screenings with a Nemours specialist.
The exams are available in Longwood and at two locations in Orlando. Call 407-876-6699 for an appointment.
At the Longwood Shepherd’s Hope Health Center, mammogram screenings from Florida Hospital for Women will be available for moms accompanying their children.
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