For the last 15 years, VEAP has worked to get the tools for academic success into the hands of local students with our School Supply Drive. While our primary mission and work for more than four decades has been distributing healthy food, VEAP has learned that by providing resources to clients such as school supplies, dollars can be freed up to put toward the many other costs in raising a family. We also know well the direct correlation between healthy food, housing stability and a living-wage job, and how those are directly impacted by and with success in school.
The drive works because of our diverse partnerships in our community, along with a strong volunteer effort. VEAP organizes all the promotional and logistical materials to accompany the effort. Working closely with the local school districts, we determine the most-needed items—backpacks, paper, pencils, crayons and notebooks were requested as usual, but an emphasis was placed on high-cost items for older kids, such as calculators, ear buds and flash drives.
Businesses, congregations, civic organizations and individuals all come together to collect supplies at their locations during a focused period of a few weeks. Even though the drive has an end date, supplies and donations are welcomed into the beginning of the school year.
VEAP made a change to the distribution method this year. Rather than collecting and distributing directly to clients from our food pantry, we leaned on the schools to determine which students had the greatest needs. While VEAP is able to reach hundreds of households in our community at our food pantry, there are many students on free or reduced lunch programs in the schools who do not currently come to VEAP. VEAP’s dedicated team of lead volunteers and a variety of volunteer groups collected and sorted supplies, as in years past. Volunteer support of our program work is essential!
The success of the changes were felt greatly on the evening of August 8, when Bloomington Public Schools held their back to school event. VEAP and a team of community partners distributed 925 backpacks and thousands of school supplies to students in Bloomington. Again, partnerships are the key to this work – each person plays an important role. From the groups that collected and donated supplies to VEAP, to the host site, school district and volunteers – every effort adds up to great impact. Community and social connections were made this night as well, and that means everyone wins.
Similar distributions are planned for Richfield and Edina Public Schools during their back to school events later in August. We expect the same amazing results!
Thanks to everyone who made this possible: Bloomington Public Schools, City of Bloomington, The Sheridan Story, Redemption Lutheran Church, St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, Good in the ‘Hood, UpWorks and Cowboy Jack’s.