Addressing a huge need in county schools
By Kana Coonce
KEWAUNEE – With the next school year just around the corner, the Kewaunee County Public Health Department has begun preparations for its Back-to-School program, which offers free school supplies, books, clothing and shoes to students in need.
“It began probably more than 15 years ago,” said Kewaunee County Public Health Director Cindy Kinnard, RN. “It was started as a joint effort between the health department and the human services department to serve low-income youth in our community.”
Though the human services department has since pulled out, the health department has continued the program with the aid of other partners around the community.
“One of the key community partners we have are the school districts,” said Kinnard.
In Kewaunee County, registration forms for the Back-to-School Program are sent home with every public school student at the end of the school year.
“Schools saw a big need for this program,” she added.
In addition, though human services no longer plays as big a role in the program as it once did, it still plays a vital role in spreading awareness of the program to those who might need it.
“There is a very big effort to get that information out there,” said Kinnard.
Other partners in spreading awareness include Literacy Partners of Kewaunee County to reach the community’s Hispanic residents; the library; and other programs the health department oversees, like BadgerCare.
Another partner is Soles for Souls, a nonprofit that popped up after Hurricane Katrina with a goal of distributing new and gently-used shoes and clothing to people who need them.
“Overall, it’s a big community effort, but there’s a lot of really good things that come out of it,” said Kinnard.
On average, Kinnard said, the program “serves 300-365 kids per year, roughly about the same amount per year. That’s a pretty consistent marker that we’re getting to the majority of people that we need to hit with it.”
Students each receive a backpack “with basic supplies,” said Kinnard.
Then, they have the opportunity to pick out shoes, socks, hats, gloves and “different types of clothing.”
They are also given the opportunity to choose free books, courtesy of the Friends of the Library.
The health department is still accepting donations for the Back-to-School program.
Donations of wide- and college-ruled spiral notebooks, one-inch three-ring binders, two-pocket folders, colored pencils, washable wide markers, highlighters, lined index cards, dry-erase markers, three-by-three post-it notes, #2 pencils, pencil top erasers, glue sticks, glue bottles and backpacks, in addition to monetary donations will be accepted until Wednesday, August 9.
“Some years are better than others,” Kinnard laughed, noting that the number of donations the program — which is entirely supported by donors — receives each year can vary. “Some years we do a little groveling. We are fortunate that the businesses and communities step up to that groveling that we do.
“We’re just really grateful for the support we get from the community. It’s just a really good community effort, and it’s been really well received for the last 15 years.”
Forms can be picked up by those in need — including students who attend private schools — from the Kewaunee County Public Health Department, the Algoma Public Library, the Kewaunee Public Library and Nicolet Bank in Luxembourg.
Supplies will be distributed on Wednesday, Aug. 16, from noon-5 p.m.
Though non-registered families may attend from 4:30-5 p.m., registering is recommended.