Bienestar Backpack Project v3 - Grassroots Efforts Are Effective!

This is my third year of acting as the "backpack angel" for a group of deserving kids enrolled in homework clubs in 5 low-income housing complexes, managed by an amazing nonprofit: Bienestar.

The homework clubs have been expanding and growing, funded by grants to Bienestar based on the success of the program in proving that children in the homework club have increased GPA's throughout the school year. Children are our future - we need to invest in them. The smarter the children are, the better our future will be. 

And so it goes that I coordinated this little supply drive to make sure that the homework club kids will not go to school without the needed supplies to help them be a success.

Let's look at the numbers for a second:
  • Year One -99 children
  • Year Two - 130 children
  • And now Year Three - 150 backpacks for kids!!!  
With the help of a handful of local businesses and a group of people I am amazed to have as my friends - we provided a backpack with supplies for 150 children!! All of this was done in a three week period, based out of my living room, with no publicity other than my own personal begging for supplies via this blog and facebook. Amazing, no?

The Executive Director of Bienestar was on hand to welcome the volunteers that gathered last Saturday to stuff the backpacks and she referred to me as their Angel multiple times. But really - I'm not an angel. I just send out emails and let things gather in my personal space. The real angels are those who dig deep in their pockets to donate $10 of supplies when they are themselves on a tight budget. Or the people who organized a supply drive through their company and gathered hundreds of dollars of supplies. Or the ones who gave up a beautiful Saturday morning in late summer to help prepare the backpacks to be distributed to the kids.

THOSE are the angels. The power of grassroots efforts is amazing. 

If you think you can't do this - you are wrong. Anyone can organize something wonderful to help make a difference in their community. It doesn't have to involve your own pocketbook and it doesn't even have to take up a lot of time- just coordinate it to help others give. Anything is possible if we all work together!

Pictures from the event:

Unloading, unloading and more unloading of supplies.

And more unloading.

The amount of school supplies needed for 150 kids is pretty amazing.

The kids were bedazzled by the number of backpacks.

Sorting, sorting, sorting supplies.

And sorting of backpacks. We have the kids sort by grade level.

We tag the bags with grade level, as each grade level gets some unique supplies.

And then we stuff. And we stuff. And we stuff some more.

Some dedicated volunteers gave up their Saturday morning to help.

The first homework club participant to pick out his bag.

On to the road of success - new bag and supplies in hand!

Thanks to everyone who donated, both time and money. 150 children will go off to school better prepared because of all of us. We truly made a difference.

The Return of the Empty Nest

Andrew left me today.

This time it will be for at least twice as long as last time. The first time he moved to college, he was only going for Spring semester. This time it's for Fall and Spring. And then potentially a summer internship.

Dropping him off at the airport this morning, I thought of all the things I would like to say to him.
About how proud I am of all he is and all he will become.
About how much I believe in him.
About how great he is.
About how he needs to believe in himself more.
About not taking life too seriously.
About loving freely.
About accepting all that life throws at him-and still smiling through it all.

And about how much I love him more than anything in the world.

Instead what happened was we unloaded the bags and as soon as they were taken care of, my throat immediately swelled up and my eyes started leaking and I could say nothing. Just I love you.

Saying goodbye to this boy of mine, who I grew from a tiny seedling, who I raised on my own-just the two of us for 18 years, who I taught how to sit up, how to read, how to entertain himself, how to entertain others, how to cook (a few things anyway), how to do laundry, and how to drive (as frightening as that was) - saying goodbye to young Andrew was akin to someone reaching down my throat and grabbing hold of my fragile heart and tugging it out my esophagus.

And so my wonderful last words to Andrew were lost as I struggled to swallow this lump that could have been my heart.
For my heart aches.
But it is filled with hope. And trepidation (for both of us).

And love-lots of love. 

Another School Year Approaches - Donation Crunch Time

It's that time of year where my living room fills up with school supply donations and I set about begging asking around for more donations from anyone and everyone I know.

This is my third year hosting a school supply drive for kids at the Bienestar Homework Club program - a program that has successfully proven to improve the children's grades over the course of the semester. These kids aren't just hanging out after school, keeping busy in some apartment complex "club" - they have to apply to be admitted, they need the support of their parents and teachers (along with written permissions) and they have to bring in signed progress reports monthly from school. They are really trying their best to do their best. I celebrate their commitment and dedication.

I celebrate it - by helping them start the school year off right. I don't think that these kids, who have proven that education is important, deserve to go to school without all the needed supplies. I think they have earned the right to have a full backpack full of the supplies they need to feel comfortable starting the school year. If I could buy them all new school clothes, I would do that too - but I'm currently limited to providing a bag full of stuff.

And STUFF is what I have.

But STUFF is what I need.

I have one week left. This is what I still need:

  • 35 backpacks
  • 280 notebooks
  • 114 loose leaf paper packs
  • 1248 pencils
  • 400 pens
  • 122 erasers
  • 250 glue sticks
  • 150 folders
  • 63 pencil sharpeners
  • 45 boxes of markers
  • 40 binders
  • 30 highlighters
  • 90 bottles of hand sanitizer


To be honest, this happens each year. My first year, I needed probably more than this and I was only supplying for 75 children. This year it's 150 kids and I have a good portion of what I need....but when I look at my tracking sheet (and the list above) - it seems unattainable.

So wish me luck in this personal endeavor of mine to do good by 150 kids.
And if you're so inclined, feel free to contact me about a donation.

And stay tuned for the results next week when I will hopefully be able to tell you that I somehow pulled it off again!!

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

Someone told me I am kind of judgmental the other day and I was taken aback and saddened that she would think that. I had to stop and reevaluate everything I've ever said and done around her and determine what was it I said to make her think I am a judgmental person.

A person that judges others without getting to know that person or having proof of what they are judging them for. Judgemental people can unfairly judge in many aspects of society: politics; religion; business; race problems, etc.

But maybe it's not possible to NOT be. Don't we all have a first glance at something and think a certain thought about it without really knowing all the information? Isn't that slightly what happens in first impressions - you judge someone based on how they look, or what they say first, or their mannerisms - and is it possible to NOT have a first impression?

Today I went to a local electronics store to talk to a techy person about fixing a broken laptop we have. My first impression of him was not great - he had long broken fingernails (here I go, judging him on his looks) and he wasn't the least bit impressed that I opened the laptop up to try and see if I could fix it myself and made a snide remark about being more knowledgeable about such things than I am (while he was judging me here, I was judging him for assuming I know nothing).

Every day on my walk to work, I pass by no less than a dozen homeless people. Some are still curled up in sleeping bags with large bags next to them, and their shoes very close by. I never judge them, but I know a lot of people who do. For some reason, I think more favorable thoughts towards the homeless people than I do for the obviously wealthy person exiting the hotel further down the road, wearing ultra-expensive clothes and getting into the sports car. I think I have had more positive experiences with people who are extremely poor compared to the extremely wealthy. 

But does that make me a bad person for judging them? Isn't it something that we do as humans? We jump to conclusions, we make assumptions, we believe what we want - with NO information to support our beliefs.

So I accept that I may be judgmental. I just hope that I can stay true to keeping an open mind and a kind heart to counterbalance it all.

A Visit to the Clark County Fair

Today I went to a fair with a friend and her daughter, an annual event I think. Honestly, I could have been in a time warp as it was VERY similar to the fair we went to last year

Some things were a bit different. Like this smiling llama:

And isn't this lady in the first car a celebrity??
And this particular fair has these walk-through misting stations all over the place! GENIUS. Just enough to cool you off without getting you too wet that it's uncomfortable walking around. (It was 104 degrees yesterday, 96 today, so these were maybe genuine life savers!)

 At this fair, you could pay $5 to ride a mechanical bull with a JESUS bumper sticker on it's ass.
The quote of the day was when my friend, who had spent all her fair money already, told her daughter, "Come on! You are not riding the bull of jesus! Walk away from Jesus' bull!"

And the food at this fair was different - they actually had this healthy food stand that sold yummy gluten-free chicken wraps, so I had lunch at the fair and didn't make my heart unhappy! 

Some things never change though. Like the ridiculous faces my friend makes in all photos I take of her:

Such a beautiful day for the fair!


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