MINT HILL, NC – Servant’s Heart wrapped up a whirlwind supply drive last week aimed at providing local students in need with the supplies they need to start the school year.
Due to rapidly changing decisions concerning the return to school this fall, Servant’s Heart was left with only a few weeks to execute a program normally planned months in advance. “Normally we plan our Back2School Program a month and a half to two months prior to giving book bags to the schools and individual students,” says Founder and Executive Director Kim Rhodarmer. “Even before we begin that venture, we’ve met with counselors and social workers from all K-8 Mint Hill schools in May of the previous school year to determine how many families they anticipate might be unable to purchase supplies in the fall.”
Every year, Servant’s Heart works with partners in the community for supplies and packing book bags with every item needed for grades K-8 at six Mint Hill schools. Elevation Church has been a big help this year, donating over 250 book bags filled with some supplies. “Without their help, our program would have been meager at best,” says Rhodarmer.
With teams from Mint Hill Medical Center helping to fill book bags with supplies donated by the community, Servant’s Heart had already filled 116 book bags for children of existing clients as of last week and was on track to increase that number to 200 and fill an additional 127 book bags for local schools. If they meet that goal, the Servant’s Heart will give over 75 more book bags than they did last year.
CMS only reached a final decision regarding what school would look like for the fall that came in early August, and school starts on the 17th. That didn’t leave much time for Servant’s Heart to get bags filled and delivered, but Rhodarmer and her team were committed to helping students start the year off right.
“We are moving forward, and we are going to make this happen,” said Rhodarmer with only two weeks to go until the start of school. “Normally we’re working this program two months out. At this juncture, we’re working two weeks out, but we want our schools to know they’re supported by the community, and we want children to be ready at the onset of remote learning this school year.”
Because students will be learning at home for an undetermined amount of time, the supply lists Rhodarmer received from local schools looked quite different this year. Normally including fifteen or more very specific items – down to the color and type of folder and brand of a pencil – this year’s lists are shorter and more generic in nature.
“Normally the list is double and triple what we’re seeing this year,” says Rhodarmer. “For elementary students, for example, we’re seeing very basic things like notebook paper, pencils, crayons, notebooks, scissors, and glue.” With limited time to prepare and classrooms standing empty this fall, Servant’s Heart did not collect administrative and classroom supplies this year. “Our focus this year is strictly going to be book bags and the school supplies needed to go in them.”
It may not seem all that imperative to collect school supplies for kids who won’t be setting foot in a school building any time soon, but Rhodarmer believes that getting supplies into the hands of students in need is even more important than in past years. Whereas in past years a child without a pencil or a sheet of paper could get one from the teacher or share with a friend, kids who don’t have the proper supplies for remote learning will be out of luck.
“This year already holds difficulties,” says Rhodarmer. “We’re starting with children knowing they can’t go to the classroom. They’re not going to be with a certified teacher, and they are not going to see their friends. They’re going to be at home with a parent who may or may not have the time or skillset to educate their child. We hope our efforts not only give the necessary tools for academic learning but also motivate a child towards learning remotely. One thing most kids get excited about is the new book bag, the thrill of new supplies. We’re hoping that when children get brand new book bags filled with new items, it will produce some excitement as they start their academic year.”