A line of families looped through the hallways of Greenwood Middle School, knowing by the time they left, they would be checking an item off their to-do list and saving money they need to pay other bills.
Greg McCourt, a warehouse worker, was there getting his daughter Allyson’s school supplies.
Allyson is a fifth-grader at Isom Elementary School, and her father was somewhat surprised by some of the items on his daughter’s list of required supplies this year — tissues, hand sanitizer, highlighters, markers. Those extras are sometimes hard to afford when his wife, who works in the restaurant industry, doesn’t get as many hours at work as she’d like, he said.
For the first year, Greenwood schools hosted its own Fast Track event, a school supply giveaway program run by the United Way of Johnson County.
More than 300 Greenwood students whose families qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches picked up kits of school supplies and a backpack, preparing for the first day of school later this week.
Although Greenwood has had churches and others who had donated school supplies in the past, the need has grown high enough that the school district asked to be added to the list of schools in Johnson County that benefit from Fast Track, superintendent Kent DeKoninck said.
Nearly half of families qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches, he said.
“We have students with a lot of needs. Any time you can give them all the supplies they need, it helps them, it helps the parents — it helps everyone,” he said.
Among the group gathering notebooks, pencils, crayons, erasers and paper was Bridget Semonik, a pharmacy technician, and her sons, Dominick, 10, an Isom Elementary fifth-grader and Anthony, 11, a sixth-grader at Greenwood Middle School.
“(Fast Track) is really important to the families and community,” Semonik said. “It really helps you get a good start on getting school supplies — it cuts the cost at least in half.”
The cost of school supplies is a struggle for Semonik’s family. Her children have illnesses that keep them in a constant cycle of doctors’ visits — one has a blood disorder and the other has mitochondrial disease. She appreciates the help, she said.
“The community always comes together to help kids be successful. There’s plenty of assistance,” she said.
Stephanie Faulkner was there with her son, Ryley, 6, a first-grader at Northeast Elementary School. Faulkner works in home restoration and has a new baby, and finances have been tight recently, she said.
“Thankfully, there are people who donate and put this together,” she said.
School supplies were donated through the United Way’s annual Stuff the Bus campaign, in which donations are loaded onto a school bus. This year’s Stuff the Bus event collected enough for all the county events, said Nancy Lohr Plake, executive director of United Way of Johnson County.
About 2,300 kids were signed up to receive supplies countywide, she said.
“We’re anxious to see the final numbers (of kids served) this year with bringing Greenwood on. There’s probably a slight increase because we’ve brought on the new school district.
“Other districts’ numbers are remaining flat. Some districts are increasing. We’ve seen a slight increase every year. When the economy was in the midst of the recession the need was jumping, but we also have families for whom it’s just hard to come up with $30 to $40 per child.”
Lyndsey Donges, mom of Taylor Doolin, 5, a kindergartner, and Parker Doolin, 8, a third-grader, estimated she saved at least $60 in supplies. She said she’s struggled to get back on her feet after a divorce.
“It’s a big help,” Donges said.
How can you help?
To donate to the Fast Track program, please mail your contribution to:
United Way of Johnson County, P. O. Box 153, Franklin, IN 46131
Make checks payable to United Way of Johnson County and enter Fast Track in the memo line.
Fast Track collections will run through Aug. 24 at any Horizon Bank, Huntington Bank, or Mutual Savings Bank location. Items may also be dropped off at Main St. Self Storage in Greenwood or the United Way of Johnson County Office, 460 N. Morton Street, Franklin.
Suggested school supplies:
Dry erase markers