Many Palm Beach County children lacking basic school supplies

Non-profits face challenges trying to help

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Thousands of Palm Beach County school children may not have the basic school supplies they need when they return to the classroom later this month. There are a number of local groups trying to change that,   but those groups are facing new challenges.

Basic school supplies collected by just five people are bound for three thousand students at sixty Palm Beach County schools.

"Even though we don't have a lot of money, whatever we do have, we feel any little bit of it will be good for someone else," said Betty Stieler, who runs the non-profit organization The School Supply Guys, Inc., which launched in 2002.

Stieler, who is a first grade teacher in the Palm Beach County school district, gouges where her donations will go based on a school's Title 1 status. Title 1 identifies students who are eligible for free or reduced-priced school lunches, based on the child's guardian's income level. Many elementary schools in Palm Beach County have nearly all of their students receiving free or reduced-priced meals.

Like many local teachers, Stieler often dips into her own pockets to provide basic supplies to her students. She knows, though, that she can't help everyone in need. "Not only does it break your heart, you can see that the child is insecure," she said.

Stieler's team is working feverishly to get each donation box just right. The boxes will be delivered to schools beginning next week throughout Palm Beach County. With current economic conditions, many local parents cannot afford the basic supplies.

"It means a lot to me because I was one of those kids," said Melissa Lacasse, who went from receiving donated school supplies years ago to helping hand out the supplies now. "You're one of those kids that don't have and you always look and you're one of those kids who want what they have," said Lacasse, who has been a part of The School Supply Guys for several years.

Donations and year-round fundraising get the team to where it is right now. This year has been tough, organizers say, because big box stores that usually have bargains for buying in bulk did not order as much product as they did in years past. That means that fewer items were offered at discount prices.

"I feel like we're doing a lot for the kids, but I feel that we could still do more," said Scott Stieler, a founding member of the group.

The School Supply Guys, Inc. has helped approximately twelve thousand local children over the years. Team members plan to hit the road in the coming days to deliver the important items.

For more information on the non-profit organization and how you can help, click here .

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