by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Many families can no longer afford to buy school supplies for their children in Vallejo, a community hard-hit by the economic downturn. So for the last three years, members of the Vallejo Education Association have stepped up to the plate and donated school supplies for district students.
“We decided to do this because more kids were coming to school without pencil and paper, and we heard so many sad stories of struggling families,” says Ron West, a fourth-grade teacher at Steffan Manor Elementary School who coordinates community outreach for the chapter. “We asked ourselves realistically, ‘What could we do to help?’ We came together as a chapter and our 800 members agreed to spend $15,000 of dues money so students could start the year off on the right foot.”
The “Hand to Hand” giveaway was suggested by VEA member Bill Innes as a means of helping students, giving back to the Vallejo community and creating goodwill with parents. Approximately 2,000 students received goody bags this year.
As in previous years, donations were handed out in September by VEA members at several community locations. Students and their families stood in long lines to gratefully receive goody bags stuffed with pens, pencils, notebooks, coloring pencils, crayons, erasers, bookmarks and, for older students, calculators. The Vallejo Friends of the Library got involved and donated books that were put on tables for students to choose from.
“It’s definitely helpful,” said Rochelle Williams, who brought 12-year-old Marquez Thomas to a giveaway event at a local library. “A lot of parents are in very hard times, and the way things are, we can’t afford to buy school supplies. Everybody is struggling. When something is free and educational, you can’t beat that.”
Davis Jones, who has a disability and is raising two grandchildren who attend middle school, said that he didn’t think he would be able to provide supplies out of his own pocket, and appreciated that teachers were “giving back” to the community.
Ernestine Myers brought her granddaughter Helen Collins. “She’s been excited all day,” said Myers. “You don’t see nice things like this happen much anymore. This is so nice of the teachers and so positive.”
“As educators, we understand that investing in our students and schools means investing in our community’s future,” says VEA President Cristal Watts. “Families are struggling, and it feels good to help provide children with the school supplies they need and deserve.”