By Samantha Joseph
INDIANTOWN - Callers contacting the Indiantown Community Outreach are inquiring about the possibility of getting everything from clothes to basic school supplies to help their children return to school this month.
The nonprofit can't help with clothes, but the group is aiming to double the number of children it helps this year, or at least increase its outreach 50 percent.
Last year, the group donated 460 bags in one day to families from Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River counties.
This year, on Aug. 11, it hopes to exceed that number by at least 200 when it holds its fifth annual back-to-school bash at 15161 Southwest 169th Ave., in Indiantown.
"People are already calling because they've lost their jobs and are facing other hardships," said Jackie Clarke, CEO of Indiantown Community Outreach.
"They're asking for clothes, which unfortunately, we'll have to wait until next year to try to coordinate. We know we can't do everything, but we're trying to provide the basic necessities."
The Indiantown organization is collecting school supplies to stock backpacks for children across the Treasure Coast.
It still needs wide-ruled paper, composition books, highlighters, quart-size sandwich bags, black- or blue-ink pens, one-ring binder notebooks, three-subject notebooks, boxes of tissues and calculators to help meet demands from area students.
Organizers of the back-to-school giveaway say families continue to show up seeking assistance long after the drive is over.
About 650 people attended last year's event, but the count reached about 800 later that week when visitors continued to arrive at Indiantown Community Outreach, leading staff to create makeshift bags, said office administrator Niambi Emanuel.
"We're hoping we can do more and invite many more people to participate," she said. "We want to be able to help them all and make it easy for parents to get the school supplies they need for their kids."
Indiantown Community Outreach organizes the event with sponsorship from several community groups, including Indiantown Nonprofit Housing, Rines IGA Market, Indiantown ITS Telecom, Martin County Health Department, Burger King and Family Drugs of Indiantown.
Officials from the Martin County Health Department and Florida Community Health Centers also participate, setting up a station onsite to conduct immunization clinics.
Organizers said the event helps ensure hundreds of children have essential supplies.
"We're doing it so the kids get a good start at school. This not only helps the parents and the kids, it also helps the teachers, who have to pay for some of this out of their own pockets when kids don't have the basic necessities," Ms. Clarke said.
The nonprofit continues to accept donations.
To make a donation, send it to the Indiantown Community Outreach, P.O. Box 1696, Indiantown, FL 34956; or drop it off at the organization's headquarters, located at 15161 Southwest 169th Ave. or at the Indiantown Western Martin County Chamber of Commerce, located at 15935 S.W. Warfield Blvd. For more information, call (772) 285-8978 or (772) 597-1771.