We learned about the urgent need during our ABC7 Listens meeting Wednesday night at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano counties. The meetings are a chance for us to talk directly with our viewers about what's on your minds.
The staff and volunteers at Monument Crisis Center service anywhere between 5,000 to 6,000 families in Contra Costa County a month, with food bank assistance and other services. But now they're asking the community to help a different group -- school kids ages K-12, by donating a new backpack filled with school supplies. So far they've raised enough for 300 backpacks, but still have a ways to go to reach their goal 1,000 backpacks by Aug. 9.
The day that the Monument Crisis Center opened their doors in 2003, they helped 84 families at their food bank. Now, nine years later, that number has grown to more than 6,000 families a month.
And there have been other changes, to not only the ages and faces of those they serve, but also to the programs they offer.
"I want to see some school stuff that I can learn with so I can be smart," said 8-year-old Michelle, who is just one of several students who are part of the center's Youth Enrichment Program. Through community donations, they're able to provide children with a healthy lunch and educational field trips during the summer and then prep them for school in the fall.
"Having the right tools is essential to being successful," said Nicole Gentile who works at the center. And in a tight economy, providing those tools has become a greater challenge. Gentile says that their mission is to help the whole family, partly by identifying the academic needs of their young people. One of the most important things on that list are new school supplies.
"When you're a kid going to school, that's a huge part of going to school," said Gentile. "I looked forward every year to school supply shopping and a lot of our kids don't get to have that experience."
They have given themselves the ambitious goal of giving away 1,000 new backpacks to students in need, but they know that they cannot do it without help from the community.
"$25 gets a kid a backpack with brand new school supplies," explained Gentile. That's because they're able to purchase in bulk, making every dollar count and giving some families a much needed financial break.
Because of the limited space, they are asking that those making donations drop off the new backpacks and supplies closer to Aug. 9, the start of the school year.