King George foundation proposes center to provide supplies to needy students

Staff members at King George County schools spend hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets buying supplies for students.

The King George Education Foundation wants to make it easier for students’ needs to be met by the entire community in a central location.

Annie Cupka, president of the foundation board, shared a presentation with the King George County School Board this week about the foundation’s desire to create a place called the FoxSmart Center, where school supplies, hygiene products, clothing, food and instructional materials could be distributed free to students in need.

“The vision here is a one-stop shop for students and families in need, as well as staff members who continue to purchase items for classroom use out of their own funds,” Cupka said.

They hope to kick off the initiative during the coming school year, she said.

The foundation has been developing the idea over the past year after one director shared a website for a shopping/swap center for teachers with other directors. They also heard about a teacher who had collected donations from businesses in the past, but ran into the problem of where to store a truckload of stuff.

Sharon James, the district’s coordinator of communications, surveyed staff members about buying supplies for students. She discovered that 95 percent of the 135 respondents purchased supplies for classroom use from their own funds, spending an average of $380 a year each.

The survey also included comments from staff.

“It’s hard as a teacher to see a student not have what is necessary to be prepared for school,” one respondent wrote. “Reaching into my own pocket is just part of the job. If this were to happen it would be a blessing to many students!”

Another commented that, “Kids are proud, in need, but proud.”

Foundation board members also met with Mary Fisher, the supervisor of family and student services, and school social workers and counselors to find out what students’ needs are and how they’re being met right now. She said Fisher has organized a network of local churches that send a backpack of food home with about 128 students every Friday to get them through the weekend.

“There are a lot of things in-kind out there that people, churches have already indicated that they’re very willing to give if they know it’s going to students and they know we can get them to the students,” Cupka said.

Various organizations are giving to different schools and Cupka said it could be a big time saver if there was a central place where everything could be collected and distributed.

She told School Board members about the Treasure House for the Spotsylvania County school system that is operated out of a classroom-style trailer by the football field. The trailer holds stacks of clothing, bins of crayons and notebooks and all kinds of things students might need, she said.

It was an eye-opening experience to visit the trailer and see that another organization has already been doing this type of thing successfully for more than a decade, Cupka said.

The foundation is working on an operations plan to run the center, including a priority list of items needed. They anticipate it will largely be self-sustaining through donations once it is established, Cupka said.

According to Cupka, King George’s Love Thy Neighbor organization is willing to donate food and hygiene items, members of the King George–Dahlgren Rotary Club are interested in volunteering, and the King George Walmart has agreed to donate past-season school supplies and holiday merchandise.

Cupka said the foundation would like to house the FoxSmart Center in the Vo–Tech Center because it is centrally located between the middle school and high school, but there are some HVAC issues that need to be checked. The goal is to open it two days a week from approximately 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The name for the center came out of the first meeting with Fisher and her staff, Cupka said. Someone suggested Foxmart like Walmart.

“We just added the ‘s’ because it’s smart,” Cupka said.

School Board members Mike Rose and Kristin Tolliver said they think the center is a great idea. Rose suggested later in Monday night’s meeting that it might be a good thing to get the school’s DECA group involved in marketing and promoting the center.

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