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For the third year in a row the Ladies of Charity (LOC) Morgan Hill, with funding from the Morsilli Family Fund, helped low-income students in south Santa Clara County begin the school year prepared to learn by filling 250 backpacks with school supplies. The backpacks are distributed through St. Catherine’s Community Closet annual Back-to-School Event that takes place throughout the month of July. This event helps low-income families get ready for school by providing gently used children’s clothing and shoes, and for the last three years school supplies. This year 147 families were served.
Our LOC chapter is in south Santa Clara County, a region within affluent Silicon Valley. However, sectors within south Santa Clara County suffer disproportionately from poverty. As our chapter learned about the Vincentian model of Systemic Change we struggled with what interventions and strategies we could implement to help poor families in our community achieve self-sufficiency. As a small LOC chapter what could we do?
Four years ago, it was brought to our attention that many children in south Santa Clara County lacked school supplies. Teachers and school administrators told us of children being teased by other children for not having basic school supplies. These children would not request the supplies because they were embarrassed. Educators shared how feeling ashamed and stressed can prevent children from focusing during school lessons and ultimately negatively impact their ability to learn. LOC Morgan Hill membership know studies show that education is the first step to overcoming poverty. We believe for children of low-income families having adequate school supplies could be the first step to paving a path for a successful future.
LOC Morgan Hill compiled a list of recommended school supplies from the two local school districts and sought funding for the project. In 2017 we received a $900.00 grant from a local funding source, the Morsilli Family Fund. With these funds, backpacks supplied by St. Catherine’s Community Closet, and very careful shopping, we were able to fill 100 backpacks with much-needed school supplies. We continued to receive the same annual funding from the Morsilli family Fund and in 2018 we filled 150 backpacks. This year we filled 250 backpacks, including 100 filled with supplies specific to middle and high school students. We can annually increase the number of backpacks filled because many of our members purchase school supplies during the back to school sales and donate them to the project. Backpacks are distributed before the Back-to-School sales take place, so the supplies are stored and used the next year. Funds from the Morsilli Family Fund are used to purchase those school supplies still needed.
This year we were made aware that the rate of tobacco use among teens is increasing in south Santa Clara County. We partnered with Santa Clara County Public Health Department to include a pamphlet on the dangers of tobacco use in all the middle and high school backpacks.
The backpacks always include a card with the message, “Wishing you a blessed school year from the Ladies of Charity Morgan Hill”. In this small way we let them know God is in their lives and that The Ladies care about them.
The Ladies of Charity Morgan Hill School Backpack Project has become our signature project. It is gratifying to see children excitedly selecting a backpack and how their eyes light up when they see all the new school supplies it contains. Parents tell us how grateful they are to know their children have the supplies they need for the school year. The project also serves as a fun social event for members. We look forward to getting together at a member’s home to fill the backpacks, eat delicious food and enjoy each other’s company. The event also brings LOC Morgan Hill and the community together as volunteers of all ages and social-economic and ethnic groups assist in filling the backpacks.
St. Vincent de Paul said: “Charity is the cement which binds Communities to God and persons to one another”. The Ladies of Charity Morgan Hill School Backpack Project is one of the ways we are living out his words.