“I had three teachers come into my office last week. One little boy walked a mile-and-a-half to school at 7 in the morning. His parents didn’t care, and by the time he got to school, his little hands were cold; nothing but a thin jacket from summer, no socks. His feet were blistered, he hadn’t eaten and the parents didn’t even call to check on him.”
Dan Palmer, director of the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management District and Bill Shope, president of the governing board of Sciotoville Community Schools, say they continue to hear such stories from educators in the area. Now, the two have teamed up to provide necessities to students in need, and the stories, similar to that one, just keep coming in.
Palmer said the new program springs from the heroin epidemic in Scioto County and how it affects the children.
“Bill and I are looking at it through the perspective of how it’s affecting the kids,” Palmer said.
“We have talked with principals. We have talked with teachers, superintendents, and it’s amazing the stories we’re hearing,” Palmer said. “These students are affected because, the Backpack Buddies backpacks, the parents are taking those from the kids. The kids aren’t getting fed.”
Shope said when Sciotoville schools began their backpack program it was the first of its kind in the area, but the demand overcame the ability to provide. He praised the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund for providing the backpacks now in schools all over the area.
“It’s heartbreaking to see these kids whose parents have passed away from drugs and they are being raised by their grandparents now,” Palmer said.
Scioto County Commissioners Chairman Bryan Davis has offered space in the Sole Choice building on Campbell Avenue in Portsmouth as an office for the effort.
“If you go to any statewide meetings, even regional discussions about this topic, everybody has the exact same problem,” Shope said. “Demographics may be different from district to district but, at the end of the day, like Dan said, it’s effecting kids. There are a lot of adult rehabilitation programs and everybody’s grateful for those, but there’s nothing for kids that addresses immediate needs.”
Shope said he has learned from education professionals, “If we expect kids to learn, this current generation to be the one to break this chain, then we have to put them in the best position they can to enhance their lives, to look beyond school, to be able to work, to be able to go to college, to have great employment opportunities, the current parental generation is lost, it’s going to be extremely difficult to turn that ship around. What we’re trying to do is provide for kids so they have an enhanced opportunity to be successful.”
Palmer said teachers and other school officials are telling them there is a great need for personal items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, hairbrush, soap, shampoo, deodorant, feminine items for the girls, socks, underwear, T-shirts and other clothing. He said he is not looking for money, but items themselves, and anyone wishing to donate any of those items, can have them picked up by calling 740-532-1231.
“We want all new, nothing used right now,” Palmer said. “We don’t have the ability to dry clean or wash or any of that, so we want new stuff.”
Palmer and Shope said confidentiality is at the center of their efforts to avoid embarrassing any student, “so our contacts now are teachers, principals and superintendents getting to us, so that’s why we need the support of the public in donations right now. We don’t really want money. We want these items,” Palmer said.