New partnership seeks to prepare children for school

Donations currently are being solicited for the project via an Amazon Wishlist registry or by dropping off items at Grace Heartland’s Family Life Center,  Colonial Interiors or Becca’s Place Gymnastics.

As a result of a new community partnership, local children in need will be better prepared for their return to school this year.

A collaboration between Grace Heartland Church, G. C. Burk­head Elementary School and Lincoln Trail Ele­mentary School, the Tools for School program seeks to provide school supplies, new clothes and a back-to-school haircuts for G. C. Burkhead and Lincoln Trail students.

The initial idea for the program came from Emily Johnson and her husband, Josh, who are Grace Heartland members and co-owners of Elizabethtown business Colonial Interiors. Johnson said she has experience volunteering with Feeding America’s BackPack Program and often shops for local children in need during the holidays.

“I got to thinking after the Christmas season one year, that people really give their time and money during the holiday season but families don’t just need help at Christmas time,” she said. “And that’s when I thought about another time of year that gets expensive: Back-to-school shopping.”

To identify local children in need, Johnson and her husband partnered with Suzanne Parrett and Jennifer Williams, who serve as family resource center coordinators for G. C. Burkhead and Lincoln Trail, respectively. Grace Heartland associate pastor Adam Castenir also has been instrumental in organizing the event, Johnson said.

“The goal is to build relationships and partnerships that continue to grow and equip families with tools and skills needed while reducing the stress and burden of costly school supplies,” Williams said.

Grace Heartland has previously partnered with area family resource centers through the Affordable Christmas program, which provides Christmas presents for families in need.

Through Tools for School, families identified and contacted by Parrett and Williams will be able to pick out donated school supplies, receive new clothes and get a haircut during an Aug. 15 event at Grace Heartland.

“Typically, back-to-school events hand out supplies, which is greatly needed, but Tools for School will give the kids a chance to pick out supplies that may match their personality and likes,” Parrett said.

Grace Heartland currently is soliciting donations for the program. Some needed items include backpacks, lunch boxes, certain calculators and sanitizing supplies.

Those interested in donating can visit graceheartland.org/connect/tools-for-school. A list of needed items is available on the website.

Donations can be dropped off in front of Grace Heartland’s Family Life Center Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at Colonial Interiors Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. or at Becca’s Place Gymnastics in Cecilia Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and 4 to 8 p.m. Monetary donations also are welcome.

To make donating easier, an Amazon Wishlist registry link also is available on the website. Items purchased on this page will be shipped directly to Grace Heartland.

Those interested in donating also can “adopt a child,” which involves shopping for new clothes for a specific child based on their clothing sizes and preferences.

In addition, volunteers are needed for the program. Those interested in volunteering can help by organizing supplies, helping to set up the event and by volunteering during the event. Volunteer barbers and hairdressers also are needed.

Looking towards the future of this new program, Johnson said she hopes to make it an annual initiative and hopes to expand the amount of partnering schools.

“We would love nothing more than to be able to reach out to even more schools next year and eventually be able to help every school in our county,” she said.

Andrew Critchelow can be reached at 270-505-1746 or acritchelow@thenewsenterprise.com.