For first time, Greenwood school participating in program that gives school supplies to needy families

For the first time, Greenwood schools is joining a program that helps families get school supplies, and already 15 percent of the students are signed up.

Greenwood is participating in Fast Track, a United Way of Johnson County program that gives out school supplies to needy families in every public school district in the county, for the first time this year.

Halfway through the summer, nearly 400 Greenwood students already are signed up to get notebooks, backpacks and crayons to be ready to start school in the fall. An estimated 2,400 students from the county are slated to get about $60,000 in school supplies at distribution events in their school districts later this summer.

Greenwood didn’t participate in the program previously, and instead local churches were helping families with supplies. But not all families were being helped, and the school district had an unmet need, superintendent Kent DeKoninck said.

“As I got to understand the program better, I realized we still had kids that were not getting served,” he said.

Last summer, 2,285 students got free school supplies. This year, about 2,400 will, said Nancy Lohr Plake, executive director of United Way of Johnson County. School supplies are collected at specific sites across the county and at a one-day school supply drive later this month. Monetary donations also help purchase the supplies.

Clark-Pleasant has the most students overall getting help. Of all the students who receive school supplies, 41 percent are from Clark-Pleasant schools, said Bethany Guilfoy, Fast Track coordinator for the district. Nearly 900 students will go to the distribution event later this month, she said.

Some of the families in the school district are transient, and the school district tries to meet all of the needs of the students, such as trendy school supplies, and offers extras, such as back-to-school haircuts. Families have talked to each other about all the help they can receive, which has helped the event grow, Guilfoy said.

“We have such a good reputation with the families we served in the past years,” she said.

Enrollment in the program at other local school districts is slightly down because more families are working, decreasing the need for help, Plake said.

“For some, the economy is better,” Plake said.

And most of the school districts ask families to apply for help at the end of the school year, when most aren’t looking ahead to what school supplies their students might need the next school year, she said.

Each school district will get the school supplies they ask for from United Way and will have their own distribution event, she said.

Schools will get enough to stuff a backpack with about $30 worth of school supplies, the estimated amount a child needs on average to get ready to go back to school, she said.

If a family has more than one child and is already living paycheck to paycheck, a parent might have to cut back on groceries or not pay a utility bill to afford school supplies for their children, Plake said.

“For those families operating paycheck to paycheck, for a family of three, that is an additional $90,” she said.

If you go

What: Stuff the Bus. The event is an annual school supply drive through the United Way of Johnson County.

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 16

Where: The three Walmart locations in the county: U.S. 31 in Franklin, State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road in Greenwood and Emerson Avenue and County Line Road in Greenwood

Donations: Schools are asking for basic school supplies, including backpacks, three-ring binders, composition notebooks, spiral notebooks, loose leaf notebook paper, scissors, ear buds, highlighters, markers, glue sticks, colored pencils, red ink pens, rulers and large erasers.

Donors can also drop off school supplies at the drop-off boxes at the following sites:

  • Horizon Bank branches
  • Huntington Bank branches
  • Mutual Savings Bank branches
  • Johnson County Public Library branches
  • Main Street Self Storage in Greenwood
  • United Way of Johnson County office
Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2770.