Back to School shopping: Helping families in need

It’s officially August and parents everywhere are starting to think (if they haven’t already) about getting into the back-to-school shopping groove. For some the thought of fulfilling the list of school supply needs for their child/ren seems an overwhelming impossibility. To give you an idea of just how many families we’re talking about in the Billings area, “Imagine filling Dehler Park to capacity. Then imagine filling it again. Once more – one third full. Total that image in your head. That is the number of children in poverty in Billings, Laurel, and Lockwood schools,” according to United Way of Yellowstone County. This figure was determined by the number of children who are on the free and reduced lunch program in those districts.

So that leads us to the all-important question: How can I help?

Following we’ve got information from three different organizations in the community that are actively working to ensure all students have the school supplies needed to get their school year started on the right foot.

Family Support Network

1002 10th Street West, Suite 1 | Billings, MT

Family Support Network (FSN) is an organization that has served families in and around the Billings community for over 25 years. Typically the families working with FSN are considered “at risk” for abuse and neglect – struggling with issues such as poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, and/or their own histories of abuse and neglect. Each year nearly 3,000 MT children enter foster care due to abuse, neglect, or other serious issues within their families. FSN works with over 300 children each year and 98 percent of their clients fall below the federal poverty line, shares Ashley Fagerstrom Undes, FSN’s Community Development Director.

With that in mind, Family Support Network is asking the community to support the children they serve by contacting FSN at 406.256.7783 or toll free at 877.376.4850 or emailing Ashley at aundes@mtfamilysupport.org to receive a specific wish list for a child in need of your generosity. However, they will also gratefully accept any general supply donations.

As these families work to find their footing, you can take one stressor off their plate by donating school supplies to Family Support Network and the children they serve.

Family Services, Inc.

1824 1st Avenue North | Billings, MT

Helping families since 1906, Family Services, Inc. aims to put together 700 backpacks to distribute to students in the Billings community with a proven need. This is an organization that helps 1 in 6 families in Yellowstone County meet their basic needs.

These are the supplies they are requesting (financial donations to their Back to School Program are also appreciated):

Back-to-School Wish List:

  • Backpacks (no plastic ones, please)
  • Crayons (boxes of 24 only, please)
  • Dry Erase Markers (Expo brand)
  • Elmer’s Glue, 4 oz.
  • Glue Sticks
  • Erasers (Pink Pearl brand preferred)
  • Highlighter Markers (yellow preferred)

  • Colored Pencils
  • 2 Pocket Folders – any color
  • Rulers (12” with inches and centimeters)
  • Scissors (Fiskars brand)
  • Spiral Notebooks (college and wide-ruled)
  • Watercolor Paint Boxes

Supplies can be delivered to Rimrock Mall or to Family Services before Aug. 15, 2014.

Operation Supply

United Way of Yellowstone County and Rimrock Mall are teaming up to collect school supplies via Operation Supply, now in its fourth year, for Billings, Laurel, and Lockwood schools. The bus is rolling into Rimrock Mall on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014! Operation Supply aims to not only provide school supplies for students in need at the start of the school year, but to see students and classrooms through the whole year.

Back-to-School Wish List:

  • Pens (black/blue/red)
  • Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Highlighters
  • 3-Ring Zippered Binders
  • Toothbrush/Toothpaste
  • Dry Erase Markers (variety of colors)
  • Markers-washable
  • Colored Pencils

  • Elmer’s Glue
  • Body Wash
  • Deodorant
  • Loose-Leaf Paper (college and wide-ruled)
  • Spiral Notebooks  (college and wide-ruled)
  • Boxes of Tissues
  • Glue Sticks
  • Shampoo
  • Feminine Hygiene Products

Supplies can be dropped off at Rimrock Mall or you can take supplies to United Way at 2173 Overland Avenue by Sept. 5, 2014. Supplies will be sorted on Sept. 11 as part of the Day of Caring activities and will be delivered to schools on Friday, Sept. 12, 2014.

Back to school, it’s supposed to be a fun and exciting time, but for too many families it’s more like a giant ball of stress. So let’s help ease the strain and stress and get these kids started off on the right foot, ready to learn.