Back to school program needs sponsors
The program provides clothing, school supplies and other necessities to needy New Milford-area students in kindergarten through high school.
Students are referred to the United Way by local social service agencies.
Each student receives two sets of shirts and pants, three sets of underwear and socks, a pair of shoes, a backpack and school supplies, winter coat and personal care items such as toothpaste and toothbrush, said Housatonic/Shepaug United Way Executive Director
"It's all new items. The program is particularly giving these kids, one time a year at least, one set off outfits that are brand new. A lot of these kids are used to getting items that are hand-me-downs, but this is really a chance for them to get a fresh start for the new school year," he said.
"From our standpoint it's a great way to help the kids and get them started in school in a very positive way. We've found that if a kid starts out the school year on a good foot, they tend to stick with it and do better."
Average cost is about $200.
"It helps the families because many of our families in the community are struggling to make ends meet and it's, 'Do I buy my kids a new outfit or do I pay my electric bill?'" Speranzo said.
Last year, the agency provided 166 students with full packages.
Another 35 students received partial packages.
"We're expecting that the need is as much or more as last year and we're just trying to do our best to fill it," said Speranzo, noting students are still waiting for sponsors and not all referral agencies have submitted their lists of students.
He said businesses, community groups or individuals can donate money or sponsor a student.
Sponsors are given information on the student such as clothing size and favorite colors. Sponsors then shop for the items and supply the United Way with the items on the list.
"What happens a lot of times is an organization will agree to sponsor one or as many kids as they want. They'll put sign-up sheets up and people will pick (an item). Or sometimes they'll collect money and one person will go shopping," Speranzo said.
The United Way hopes to collect all items by Aug. 12 so they can be distributed about a week before school begins.
But donations will be accepted after that date.
Monetary donations can be mailed to Housatonic/Shepaug United Way, 21 Main St., P.O. Box 29, New Milford, CT 06776. Checks should be made out to the United Way with "Clothes Program" in the memo line.
For information call Housatonic/Shepaug United Way Executive Director Joe Speranzo at (860) 354-8800 or e-mail email@example.com.