After three months of purchases, donations, loading a bus, unloading it, picking and packing by hundreds of volunteers from more than 50 corporate and community partners of United Way of Lake County, over 2,000 backpacks filled with school supplies are ready for Waukegan students.
The backpacks will be distributed to Waukegan Community Unit School District 60 students at the annual Back to School Resource Fair between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday at Miguel Juarez Middle School as youngsters and their families get ready for the 2022-2023 school year.
School opens Aug. 11.
Acquisition and preparation of the school supplies is part of the fourth year of the Stuff the Bus partnership between the district and United Way to assure a start to the school year with a new backpack and fresh supplies. The contents vary by grade level.
“Every student should be able to start school with proper resources for a successful school year,” Bobbi Selvik, United Way’s manager of community engagement, said. “We’re helping to see all school children are on an equal footing with their peers.”
For the past two years, the traditional resource fair did not occur because of the coronavirus pandemic. Two years ago, the vast majority of students learned remotely. Last year, distribution was a drive-through event.
Carolina Fabian, the district’s family and community engagement coordinator, said more than 35 community organizations offering a variety of resources to the community will have representatives at the resource fair.
“They are there so they can offer the resources the district does not provide,” Fabian said.
Fabian said food will be provided by the Waukegan Schools Foundation. Families who have not yet registered their children for school can do it the fair. While parents are investigating the organizations, there are other activities for the children.
“We’ll have games and a bouncy house for the kids,” Fabian said. “There will be haircuts on a first-come, first-served basis from local barbers and hairdressers. It’s a fresh start and a fresh look for the new school year. It’s good for the yearbook pictures.”
Once school let out for the summer, Selvik said she worked with Fabian to secure a location so planning for the acquisition and distribution of school supplies could begin. Selvik reached out to United Way’s community partners.
Those participating organizations either donated money for the purchase of supplies or acquired the items. Selvik said Costco provided half the backpacks. After the supplies were acquired by early July, more volunteers filled three school buses with supplies
Once filled, the buses were driven to Miguel Juarez where Selvik said more volunteers “unstuffed the bus” so supplies could be inserted into the backpacks Wednesday. One of those was Brenda Velasquez, the manager of Waukegan’s Culver’s.
“We’re here trying to help the community,” Velasquez, who was there with a team from Culver’s, said. “We’re investing in the future. Every student needs to be prepared and have everything they need for their future.”
Jessica Ceisel of Gurnee, a United Way community engagement coordinator, came to pick and pack with her two children, Makayla, a sixth grader, and Mason, who is entering eighth grade. The youngsters wanted to help other children have a good school year.
“We’re loading the backpacks with school supplies to help the children here,” Makayla said.
Elaine Gates of McHenry was picking and packing with a group from Novelis, a Lincolnshire manufacturer. She and her teammates also felt they were making an investment in the future so the youngsters have “the environment they need for their future.”
Preschoolers’ backpacks contain a folder, a United Way calendar, hand sanitizer and a book mark. Elementary school students get two folders, a notebook, a marker, a dry ease eraser, hand sanitizer and wipes.
Middle and high school students will find a package of pencils, a bundle of pens, a highlighter, two folders, two spiral notebooks, a ream of paper and hand sanitizer in their backpacks.