Invite, Embrace, Involve – A Community Working Together

This week Chapter President Barbara Kuvshinoff is our guest blogger and although the beginning of the school year has passed, the “school kits” that her Chapter, with the help of the youth and adults of her parish, put together are just now truly serving their purpose. This is a great example of a community coming together for the greater good, everyone lending a helping hand.

How the school kits came about:
We used to have four different projects at Christmastime.  It was too much at the same time. Since we noticed that we had less activity and engagement during the summer months, we transformed one of our projects, the Christmas shoe boxes into "school kits.” We realized that many children needed school supplies but were unable to buy them. We also believed buying and donating school supplies would resonate with the youth of our church.  We have done it for three years now. We aim for at least 50 kits and have exceeded it for the last two years.

Here's how it works:
In July, when the back to school sales start, our Philoptochos Chapter distributes a list of

suggested supplies within our parish. Parents and children are encouraged to buy the supplies when they do their own school shopping. We also post the supply list on our Chapter’s Facebook page and try to spread the word so everyone participates. People who don't want to actually go out and shop for supplies often make a monetary donation. The first week in August we set up a collection bin in the community center at Church and it remains until the first Sunday of Sunday School. On the Sunday when children return to Sunday School our Chapter takes all the supplies and lays them out in groups on long tables, rows upon rows of erasers, pens, crayons, glue etc. On one end of the table there are drawstring nylon bags. After Divine Liturgy, during coffee hour, all the youth take turns filling the bags with the items in an assembly line fashion. Complete kits are boxed and taken to a local elementary school near the Church. Any leftover supplies are also boxed up into "teacher supply" bags and taken to the school. The nylon bags are funded through donations to Philoptochos for that purpose - we bought 100 bags for $150. This year a local office supply company donated 70 binders. We have a young parish council member who teaches at a high school near the Church that serves a very impoverished population, so we asked him to take the binders and extra notebook paper, pens and pencils there - so we expanded our program into the high school. We always receive thank you letters from the schools. We post them so that everyone can see them.

How we chose the schools:
Many of our students come from suburban school districts that are very different from the schools in the city of Buffalo. We wanted to choose schools that were close in location to the

Church itself. PS 45 - The International School, with its high population of refugees and new immigrants and where 95% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, was a logical choice. The high school that was chosen also serves a very impoverished population.

We like the project because it unites the adults and the youth of our community in one philanthropic purpose. The children really empathize with the need for school supplies and our Chapter’s knowledge of organizing and publicizing the event ensures its success. Our children feel connected to the neighborhood surrounding the church and they feel like they are making a difference, even if it is a small one, in the life of another person. The project is also effective at involving ALL of our youth from JOY and HOPE through GOYA.

Barbara Kuvshinoff
Chapter President
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
Buffalo, NY