URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – Back-to-school supply giveaways are everywhere. But a handful of organizations from Champaign-Urbana want to reach more families, so they teamed up.
“Because we all know somebody. That’s what makes it better, that’s what makes it different, and that’s what makes it an opportunity to be a bigger impact to the community,” organizer Darrin Smith said.
It’s their third year working together, and Darrin Smith has helped organize the event from the beginning. He said it’s about giving kids confidence and a good start to the school year.
“If they have self esteem about the things that they have, and being like ‘look what I have,’ that goes a long way,” he said.
Over 20 groups helped out, and they say it’s been a great symbol of community collaboration. Smith said when strangers noticed them buying all the supplies, they wanted to get involved too.
“We had people approach us in the parking lots saying ‘hey, it looks like you’re doing a school supply giveaway. And they donate money right there on the spot.”
He said every donation helps, especially this year. Inflation has raised the cost of necessary items and put more stress on both parents and volunteers.
“We know the struggles that families are having,” he said.
Many are looking for ways to save, and some have already taken advantage of a statewide tax holiday that gives shoppers a discount on certain school-related items.
“We just went to Target and spent a hundred and some odd dollars between notebooks, a big binder… it’s nice to save a little bit somewhere,” parent Mary Thweatt said.
The groups wanted to help in more ways than one. They added a resource fair to connect families with after school programs and support kids throughout the year.
“To keep them off the streets and make sure that they have somewhere to go,” Smith said.
They handed out over 800 bags of supplies. Smith said they’re already meeting to plan how to make next year even bigger and better.