Compassion Katy is preparing to host its drive-thru Operation Back 2 School event that should provide backpacks and school supplies to around 3,000 Katy Independent School District elementary students at 18 Title I schools. Here, students pick out their backpacks at the 2019 event.Courtesy of Compassion Katy
As Katy-area families prepare for school, some parents will face a financial burden of getting the supplies their children need to be successful.
That’s why Compassion Katy is hoping to provide backpacks and supplies to around 3,000 students at some Katy Independent School District elementary schools.
Operation Back 2 School began at Sundown Elementary in 2017, helping children who were on free or reduced-price lunches, but now the annual event serves those students at 18 Title I schools, where at least 40 percent of the students receive the meals.
Compassion Katy Executive Director Jennifer Hart said although Katy is a flourishing place for many, the need among others is great.
“When I started learning more, it was a little surprising that it’s happening in Katy because when you think of Katy, people do think prosperous,” said Hart. “Katy is a great place to live. I mean, I moved here to get my kids in the Katy school district. And so you just don’t realize what’s happening in your own backyard. And it’s heartbreaking.”
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Hart said with the pandemic, the need for help in communities has grown, as some parents have lost jobs and income and some were already working multiple jobs to make ends meet.
“So we just want to be able to relieve that burden,” Hart said.
Typically, the invitation-only event has been held inside the Merrell Center. This year due to COVID-19, Compassion Katy needed to think differently to accommodate for social distancing. A drive-thru event will allow for families to get what they need with minimal contact.
Compassion Katy partners with other nonprofits within the community, such as Katy Christian Ministries, Katy Cares and the YMCA, to get the word out about other resources that are available for families. The organizations usually set up tables to talk with people about services they offer. This year, written information will go out with the supplies.
The school supplies that are given out come from Katy ISD’s required lists. Each child also gets to pick out their own backpack from girls’ and boys’ styles. Hart said the backpacks give the young students a sense of joy and pride. “Every kid (has) that excitement of going and picking out a brand-new pack for the school year and buying school supplies, so we try to let them experience that.”
Hart added that the supplies also help teachers who might otherwise purchase them themselves.
It costs Compassion Katy $50 to provide the back-to-school items to a child, but Hart said most families would have a hard time finding the supplies for that amount on their own. People can sponsor a child with a $50 donation or give any amount they wish. Another option is to donate supplies through the website.
Hart explained that because of Operation Back 2 School, thousands of students will be ready when school starts, which helps to lessen those first-day worries. “They’re able to start school on the first day with everything they need, and not have, you know, that anxiety of not having a certain item or a brand-new backpack because it does affect the children,” she said.
She has been with Compassion Katy since January 2019 and said the work has been personally rewarding.
“You just see them so happy, and the parents are so grateful. It’s heartwarming. It’s absolutely beautiful,” she said.
Although Operation Back 2 School is Compassion Katy’s largest project each year, it also has been working in food distribution since the pandemic hit. And a Christmas event allows children to get a wrapped gift, meet Santa and have some holiday fun.
Hart said the volunteer slots for Operation Back 2 School are nearly full, but there are still opportunities. Visit www.compassionkaty.org for more information.