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Credit Unions Offer Back-to-School Aid for Communities

Credit Unions Offer Back-to-School Aid for Communities

As the summertime slowly but surely comes to an end, many families are enjoying these last sunny, carefree days soaking up the warm weather and precious time together before getting back to the grind. And even while taking in these final summer days at the beach, by the pool, in the backyard, or what have you, thoughts are inevitably turning to those 3 infamous words…Back-To-School.

Some students and parents are ready for the return to the classroom while others are clinging to summer’s remains, and still others are somewhat indifferent. Regardless of your individual feelings toward ‘back-to-school,’ every family with school aged kids, have one thing in common – the back-to-school list. Nowadays, in order to fulfill the annual laundry list of school supplies and outfit your young scholar for success, it seems to require a shopping spree and a small fortune. Despite the excitement in the back-to-school air at your local Target or Walmart, this retail endeavor can be a financial imposition (or an impossibility) for some families. Even while doing your best to shop smart, the back-to-school bill – including backpacks, clothes, shoes, food, and other essentials – can start to quickly add up.

School-Supply Drives Empowering Students, Supporting Schools

For credit union members who may be struggling with back-to-school expenses, their financial institution may just have the financial aid they need to help their youngsters get classroom-ready. Cloaked in family fun and offering valuable giveaways, CU-sponsored school supply drives are making a difference in the lives of thousands of families nationwide – giving parents that extra bit of help during a difficult time, and providing students with the tools and confidence to start the year off right!

For example, for more than 5 years, Apple Federal Credit Union (Fairfax, VA), Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax County Government and many local non-profits have joined forces to coordinate Collect for Kids – a countywide school supply drive initiative.

According to Emily Fulk, Senior Communications Specialist, since 2010, the impact of community giving on the Collect of Kids program has been far-reaching. In 2014, the program helped about 30,400 students in need in Fairfax County alone start school with much needed supplies and backpacks.

Apple, along with more than two dozen local organizations from across Fairfax County raise funds, purchase supplies and stuff backpacks. “This joint effort allows us to help more than 60% of Fairfax County students who are eligible for free and reduced price lunches,” explained Fulk. “Some 90,000 supply kits and backpacks have been distributed in the programs first three years, and donations climbed 20% year-over-year from 2010 to 2014.”

Additionally, the credit union hosts a backpack and school supply collection for Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford Counties and Winchester area students. Through the duration of the program, members can drop off backpacks and supplies at every Apple FCU branch for all of the participating school systems. They can make monetary donations for Fairfax County Public School students through Facebook. All year long they also accept donations to the program through the Apple Federal Credit Union Education Foundation website at AFCUFoundation.org. Additionally, Fairfax County Public Schools and the Fairfax County Government advertise Apple’s Facebook promotion and donation portal.

“With education and teaching central to Apple’s mission, we’re committed to helping ensure that students in Northern Virginia have the school supplies needed for academic success,” said Cynthia McAree, VP of Marketing. “Since we launched our school supplies drive in 2008, the need in Northern Virginia is greater than ever. In Fairfax County, the number of students eligible for free and reduced lunches increased by 72% from 2002-2014*, and more than 62,000 people live in poverty - defined as a family of four living on less than $22,350 a year. We hope the community will be moved to join us.”

Likewise, Mission Federal Credit Union (San Diego, CA), in partnership with Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) San Diego, launched the Mission Fed Back-to-School Drive to collect school supplies for local elementary students in need. Throughout the month of August, the CU will be collecting backpacks and school supplies at all of their branches. In addition, Mission Fed is donating over $2,000, and Quill.com, an office supplies retailer, is matching the donation.

“The goal is to fill 700 backpacks for children who attend local Title I elementary schools throughout San Diego County, but may not have enough money for school supplies, clothes or lunches,” said Heidi Everly, Marketing & Online Community Specialist. School supplies can be donated at any of Mission Fed’s more than 25 branch locations throughout San Diego County, or at their corporate headquarters, through August 31.

At Mission, they believe that every child deserves the tools to help them start the school year off right. Their hope is that having the necessary school supplies will give students a little boost of confidence that will allow them to focus on learning, and getting the best education possible.

“Since Mission Fed began more than 50 years ago, we’ve had strong ties to the educational community, and our dedication to our local schools continues,” added Everly. “We support about 30 of the 42 school districts in San Diego County, offering assistance in the form of scholarships, financial education grants and sponsorships for school district programs. The Mission Fed Back-to-School Drive is just one more way that we are able to touch the lives of children in our community.”

Oregon Community Credit Union (Eugene, OR) is also getting into the back-to-school spirit. For the past eight years, OCCU has partnered with their local St. Vincent de Paul and Springfield’s Brattain House to fundraise and collect school supplies to be distributed to low-income students in Lane County (home of the CU’s corporate headquarters) with their Backpacks for Back-to-School campaign. “We’ve also reached out to other community organizations, such as our local news station KMTR TV 16, our local radio station group CUMULUS Radio, and Lane County Bi-Marts to help spread the word and house collection barrels,” explained Cherie Kistner, Marketing Manager. “And, the past few years we’ve extended this fundraising effort to our Salem branch (located outside Lane County), partnering with the Salem Keizer Assistance League Auxiliary to provide a similar service.

Backpacks for Back-to-School benefits low-income and homeless children in the community whose families find it difficult to supply them with the tools they need to start school. “Last year, we helped distribute 2,000 backpacks to kids in need; this year, we’re anticipating the need to rise to 3,000,” reported Kistner.

OCCU is collecting monetary donations in all branches through September 6, and members are encouraged to write their names on paper backpacks for branch decoration. In addition, two “Stuff-the-Bus” events were held in Eugene and Springfield, where community members were encouraged to buy backpacks and school supplies in their local Wal-Mart/Staples and stuff a nearby school bus full of donations.

As a credit union, Oregon Community is invested in its communities -- especially in its children, the future of those communities. And, their partners share this sentiment. Rebecca Larson, Public Relations/Development Director at St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County said, “Every mom and dad wants to do what’s best for their kids, but it can be a real struggle for low income families to purchase the necessary backpacks and school supplies each year. Thankfully, Oregon Community Credit Union and our other wonderful community partners and generous donors will help thousands of children start school with the supplies they need to be successful.”

Find out how your credit union is helping students and families in need this school year, and take part in a great community effort!

By Cyndi Cohen
Published September 10, 2015
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