16,000 pounds of school supplies, 160 student volunteers, and dozens more representatives from non-profit organizations crowded the cafeteria of Richard Montgomery High School on the morning of July 15th. The annual ‘Drive for Supplies,’ a charity event calling for school supply donations from a collection of community organizations and internal MCPS staff and students, has been a fourteen year tradition unique to the county. The supplies, ranging from boxes of No. 2 pencils to brand-new composition notebooks, were sorted, packaged, and displayed upon the cafeteria benches waiting to be harvested by charities and needy families.
At the event kick-off ceremony, Superintendent Dr. Starr described the venue as a successful collaboration between many groups with the common goal of providing for needy students.
“You might not think poverty is an issue in this county,” says Mr. Barclay, president of MCPS Board of Education, “but the reality is that there are many families that can’t afford supplies. And we want to make sure that all students get what they need before school starts.”
Throughout the past school year, dozens of elementary and middle schools across MCPS organized occasions for students to donate new or refurbishable learning supplies to the summer giveaway. Particular high schools like Wheaton also participated in the campaign. The drives deliver a clear message: giving back to the community creates a better place for all.
Materials gathered at local schools were ponied to Richard Montgomery High School in early July. In addition, contributions were also made by several business groups.
For one week, student volunteers from ages 12 to 18 worked in an assembly line to classify the donations into twenty-two categories. Many young workers have previously been involved in the event.
“It’s not just for the Student Service Learning credits,” says Tiffany, a rising sophomore at Quince Orchard High School who volunteered for the drive, “dragging the recycling bins, unwrapping the boxes, and arranging all the miscellaneous items into orderly rows gave me a sense of achievement. It feels even better to know that I’ve just made someone’s life easier.”
‘Drive for Supplies’ was started in 1999 by Kevin and Louise Newcomer, founders of Learn Shop, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Wheaton, Maryland. In 2001, the program secured widespread sponsorship by Montgomery County Schools, collecting an estimated $60,000 worth of materials. The movement continues to expand, as other states have begun to consider adopting the initiative.
Although only 3.0% of Montgomery County residents are below the poverty line, most of this figure is comprised of single-mother families. Simultaneously, students from single-mother families are most prone to premature drop-out, many indicating that they simply do not have enough resources to pursue higher education. Though a small step, Drive for Supplies is an effective strategy to combat the ills of education inequality.
Next year’s Drive will take place between June 30th and July 3rd, all donations are tax-deductible. All comments and inquiries should be directed to the Student Affairs Office at 301-444-8620.