I ran into an old friend from college last week at Target. She was back to school shopping. Again.
This was her third trip. One shopping trip for clothes with her kids, another for the list of school supplies sent by their new school. Then, on the first day of school, each kid was presented with an additional list of supplies by their teachers.
All of these trips are adding up. K-12 Back to School spending is a nearly $25 billion dollar industry, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). And this year, individual families will spend an average of $630 dollars on back to school shopping.
For a lot of families, that money is not in the budget.
And for a lot of teachers, that means using their own money to buy school supplies for their kids. According to Crayola2Calculators, teachers every year spend upwards of $1,000 dollars buying essential supplies for their classes, and 75% of them say that this lack of supplies hinders their ability to do their job.
In states like North Carolina, who have eliminated the sales tax holiday that offered at least a slight break for back to school shopping, families are cobbling together supplies for their children as best as they can.
As we gear up for going back to school, here is a list of organizations in North Carolina where you can donate school supplies, where teachers can “shop” for free school supplies, and where families who need it can get some help with their school supplies.
- Crayons2Calculators: This Durham based charity provides teachers with a warehouse of supplies where they can “shop” for school supplies. In 2014-15, they provided $183,000 worth of materials to Durham Public Schools. You can donate supplies or money. Teachers may visit the store monthly and shop for supplies.
- Classroom Central: In Charlotte Mecklenburg and surrounding counties, Classroom Central provides students living in poverty with the school supplies they need. You can donate supplies, money, and/or your time. Their main outreach is through the schools. They offer teachers the chance to shop for supplies and order supplies through an online portal, and in high poverty schools, they provide free backpacks and supplies for the students.
- Eblen Charities: In Asheville, this broad-based charity has an education program that provides for the whole student, with support ranging from free lunch programs to clothing and shoes. In August, Eblen runs the “Tools for Schools” drive for school supplies.
- On the local level, many churches and charities run their own school supplies drives and donation centers, so definitely check the smaller charities in your area. The Assistance League, for example, has local chapters in Wilmington, Charlotte, and the Triangle that participate in their Operation School Bell fundraiser.
Lastly, if you are in a position to donate school supplies, one of the simplest ways to help out is to ask your child’s teacher what supplies they need, and add them to your list.