With the new school year fast approaching, East Palo Alto's Ecumenical Hunger Program is encouraging community members to donate school supplies, clothing and gift cards to its annual back-to-school drive.
According to Executive Director Lesia Preston, the back-to-school drive, which ends Sept. 30, serves anywhere from 800 to 1,000 students across the Peninsula. This year, a Redwood City organization that the nonprofit regularly partners with, My New Red Shoes, helped by donating more than 800 pairs of shoes. Preston said that they are still in need of backpacks, shirts, pants, socks, undergarments and at least 950 gift cards, adding that the program hopes to provide each child with at least two new outfits for school.
"Gift cards for local department stores like Walmart and Target are incredibly helpful because it's very hard to shop for other people when you don't know them personally," she said. "We also need sturdy backpacks for high school students. We have a lot of lightweight ones geared towards younger children, so they (high school students) always come back because the handles break from heavy books."
Preston noted that both the parents and children are always extremely grateful for any donations.
"It's very hard for children to go to school on the first day wearing clothing that might have holes," she said. "They are supposed to be focusing on education. I remember one time, a kid got new shoes and was dancing around the parking lot. They are very happy and have a big smile on their face. For them, it's like Santa Claus coming in the middle of the year."
Gift cards and donations can be dropped off or mailed to: Ecumenical Hunger Program, 2411 Pulgas Ave., East Palo Alto, 94303. For more information, call 650-323-7781 or go to ehpcares.org.