ECHO: Cash is low, needy kids might be ill equipped
WCLO's Stan Stricker reports on success of credit union's donation drive for needy school children
School supplies may be dropped in barrels at any McDonald's or M&I Bank in Rock County or at the Janesville Kmart, Walmart, Rock-Green Realtors Office, Johnson Bank, Walgreens or at ECHO.
Checks also can be mailed to the ECHO School Supply Fund at 65 S. High St., Janesville, WI 53548.
Special needs include calculators used in upper-level math classes and backpacks. A list of needed supplies is available online at echojanesville.org/School.pdf.
For more information, call ECHO at (608) 754-5333.
To get help
ECHO will accept registrations to receive school supplies through Wednesday, Aug. 24.
JANESVILLE Free school supplies might not be as plentiful for needy Janesville kids this fall.
ECHO, the local agency whose main mission is providing food and shelter, has provided school supplies for 35 years.
ECHO normally receives donations of pencils, notebooks, binders, backpacks and more, but that's not enough. Shortages crop up, so ECHO uses cash to fill in the gaps, ECHO Executive Director Karen Lisser said.
The cash isn't there this year because ECHO's reserves are down while the need is up, Lisser said.
Lisser said she isn't giving up hope that community members will come to the rescue before supplies are distributed Friday, Aug. 26, however.
Local churches and other groups also run their own school-supply collections and distributions, many of them coordinating with ECHO so there's no duplication, Lisser said.
Lisser estimates ECHO accounts for 80 percent of the supplies distributed each year.
About 1,300 Janesville children—at both public and private schools—got supplies from ECHO last year, and Lisser expects about the same this year.
Normally, about $4,000 worth of supplies is donated, and ECHO fills gaps with an equal amount of cash, Lisser said.
But the money's not there this year because of cutbacks in grants available for emergency rent assistance and because donations are down, Lisser said.
"This is a kind of a big setback for us," said ECHO client advocate Cheryl Maveety. "That money, you know, do we spend it on food and housing, or do we spend it on school supplies? And you know it had to go to food and housing."
The public schools always have found ways to help kids who don't have all their supplies, said Washington Elementary School Principal Scott Garner.
Garner said ECHO and other agencies give the schools their overstock, and parents often donate when they buy supplies for their own children.
The school keeps an eye on its stock of supplies, but usually donations trickle in through the year.
"It's kind of weird, but parents just seem to know," Garner said.
"It's not unlike any other (school) building in the district. Most of the elementary principals I've spoken with, it's the same kind of thing," Garner said.
"The stores have been great. They have wonderful sales, but there's always some families that struggle, and that's why we have what we have," Garner said.
Underlying the situation is the ever-increasing poverty level reported among Janesville schoolchildren. Nearly half of the school district's children now qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program.
Garner said he's seen the need rise during his five years as principal, but he's not highly concerned that a bigger-than-normal shortage will develop this year. If it does, he said he would call on his PTA to chip in.
"We appreciate anything we can get, though, I'll tell you," the principal added.
Garner said a man and wife dropped off with two bags of supplies at Washington School on Monday.
"That's not uncommon. I've seen that before, and I'm sure it happens at other schools," Garner said. "Community members recognize that families need help, and they just respond."