By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY - The Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County has set a goal to help about 8,500 children who need help getting needed school supplies.
Demand grew about 2 percent this year over last, when about 8,333 children needed assistance. Before that, the group saw an even stiffer hike, when in 2011, the number rocketed 18 percent.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County's "2012 school supplies for students" drive therefore aims to collect 4,600 items requested from area schools.
On the list are items such as pens, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, markers, pencil boxes, two-pocket folders, glue, highlighters, scissors, rulers, erasers, three-ring binders, notebook paper, subject notebooks and composition books.
The group contacted all area public schools and the Hope Rural School for a count of children who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches. The number, 8,500, is about one third of all Martin County students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
With that number in mind, volunteers with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County set out to collect the school supplies by organizing "stuff the bus" campaigns and setting up collection sites at area businesses.
"Schools all send us in their requests of what they need, and this year the demand is even greater," said Dianne Young, administrative/volunteer manager.
To accommodate the jump in requests, the group boosted its collection campaign, organizing an additional "stuff the bus" collection, where volunteers participated in a community clean-up project and requested donations of school supplies.
The July 14 event at Jensen Beach Park attracted 350 volunteers and yielded a bus filled with about 2,500 items from donors.
Once the Boys & Girls Clubs have all items in hand, they take the collection boxes to Stuart Middle School for sorting and distribution.
The supplies go directly to school officials, who, in turn, hand them to students in need.
"This definitely has an impact, particularly for the students who have no supplies at all," said Ms. Young. "Even if we can't get them 100 percent of what they need, this gives the teachers and guidance counselors some supplies for the children who need it. It absolutely does make a difference for thousands and thousands of children."
For more information, call (772) 545-1255.