Students struggling to get their needed books, pencils and other supplies for the upcoming school year can find help through the Merrick Kiwanis Club.
Every year, the club holds a drive to collect supplies required by the Merrick and North Merrick school districts, from notebooks and pens to crayons and folders. Each student also receives a new backpack.
“We’ve worked closely with the staff at the schools to make sure each student sponsored receives exactly what his or her teacher requested,” Kiwanis Vice President Joseph Tsentner said.
“Kiwanis is all about the kids,” the club’s immediate past president Mike Reid added. “People may not see it, but there is poverty in Merrick. The club is willing to assist if the family accepts, and it’s really a nice program to run.”
Nearly 4 percent of Merrick’s population lives in poverty — that is more than 800 of about 21,000 residents in the community, according to a 2016 Census Bureau American Community Survey. These are the families who community service associations such as the Kiwanis club hope to help.
This year, Reid said, the club is doing things differently. It still held a collection day in front of a CVS store — which the club does every year — allowing residents to give supplies on the spot and raising community awareness. This year, though, the club is also promoting a Sponsor a Backpack program, in which donors donate $50 that will give one student his or her needed supplies.
This past weekend’s CVS drive went “amazingly,” Kiwanis President Seth Pitlake said.
“We managed to collect a small car-load of supplies,” he said. “The town is very generous.”
After collecting the donations, the club uses the Sponsor a Backpack funding to purchase the rest of the needed supplies. This year, the club will provide supplies for more than 60 students — nearly double the 30 students from previous years, Pitlake said.
Club members will personally deliver the supplies to families on Aug. 25. Key Club members from the Brookside School also help with distribution.
“Our main goal is that no child feels out of place,” Pitlake said. “All of the children should feel the same. Going to school with their school supplies is necessary.”
The Kiwanis Club donates any extra supplies to the Meadowbrook Women’s Initiative, an organization with more than 600 women who sponsor charities, Pitlake said. Then the group distributes the items to a charity that can give them to more students.
For Reid, the students’ reactions when they receive their supplies are what it’s all about. “When we show up to the door, the look on a kid’s face makes it worth it,” he said. “That’s what we do this for.”
The Merrick Kiwanis Club will collect donations for the backpack program until the Aug. 25 distribution.