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 Head Start for School Supplies Drive

Homeless Education Services team distributing new backpacksClasses may be winding down for most K-12 students and teachers, but the San Diego County Office of Education’s (SDCOE) Homeless Education Services team is getting a head start on the 2017-18 school year.

SDCOE’s annual school supplies drive to assist children experiencing homelessness began early with a quiet but powerful start this month thanks to the nonprofit Feed the Children and San Diego’s Quartus Engineering.

Feed the Children donated 1,400 backpacks, pre-filled with school supplies, to the Homeless Education team. That allowed the team to meet the need five school districts that start their new school year in July or early August. The big school supplies drive, San Diego County Credit Union’s (SDCCU) Stuff the Bus, officially kicks off July 1, so typically the Homeless Education team must order these supplies for early delivery using grant funds.

“This was huge for us, to meet the need for so many students so early,” said SDCOE Project Specialist Susie Terry. “We are thrilled that this donation will allow us to provide filled backpacks to our year round districts that can be available for students at the start of their year.”

When a donation this large is received, the team needs space for sorting and distribution. Quartus Engineering was essential to filling that need, Terry said. Quartus Engineering President and CEO Doug Botos provided warehouse space in Miramar.

“We would not have been able to accept that donation if we did not have the space donated from Quartus,” Terry said. “They were awesome.”

The backpacks were distributed to: Chula Vista Elementary District, 145; La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, 350; National School District, 379; San Ysidro School District, 200; and South Bay Union School District, 350. Feed the Children also donated hundreds of books and more than 6,500 nutrition bars, and additional recipients included Julian Union School District, Sweetwater Union High School District, and SDCOE’s Momentum Learning.

The work is just getting started to collect the hundreds of thousands of school supplies needed for the estimated 23,000 children experiencing homelessness in San Diego County. While the SDCCU buses won’t start touring the county until July, an online donation drive via Roonga is now underway. Prefilled backpacks can be purchased for $28 to $34.75, depending on the grade level. 

The Homeless Education team is looking forward to working with SDCCU again to help the county’s most vulnerable students. Last year’s campaign netted nearly 5,000 backpacks and 250,000 school supplies, assisting students in 34 districts and 15 charter schools. Vessel, a Carlsbad-based luxury bag company, and San Diego-based Passion Planner also have pledged their support this year.

Be sure to check SDCOE’s Stuff the Bus webpage for updates on the drive.