The SHOPA Kids in Need Foundation celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, marking a decade of providing school supplies to teachers and students in low-income communities.
But instead of throwing an anniversary party, the Dayton, Ohio-based philanthropy says it has been focusing on getting supplies to students affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.
“When we saw that devastation, we knew we had to respond, but we wanted to respond in a way that was appropriate,” said Kathy L. Spencer, the executive director of the foundation, an offshoot of the School, Home, and Office Products Association, also based in Dayton.
“When it first happened, school supplies would have been totally irrelevant,” she added, referring specially to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated parts of the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts in late August. “The last thing you need is to have your building blown apart and have someone show up with a truck full of three-ring binders.”
The first Kids in Need resource center, where eligible teachers can “shop” for school supplies at no charge, was opened in Chicago. A decade later, the foundation has 21 resource centers in 16 states and the District of Columbia. The supplies come from monetary and in-kind donations from businesses.
Soon after the hurricanes, Kids in Need and its partners focused at first on necessities such as desks and chairs. More recently, they have begun to provide paper supplies and other smaller items.
“It’s not just about the supplies themselves, as much as it’s about telling the child that somebody cares about them and wants them to have an equal start to the school year,” Ms. Spencer said of the foundation’s work.
Future plans for the foundation are simply to keep expanding, Ms. Spencer said, pointing to the millions of American children living in poverty.
“We have a huge job ahead of us in order to reach more kids,” she said, “and that’s our job for the next 10 years.”