by Laura Ingrim
There’s nothing like back-to-school season: the anticipation of new classes and teachers; the eagerness to see friends again after the long summer break; the brand-new school supplies ready to be utilized. But while the start of a new school year is an exciting time for most families, many parents struggle to provide basic school necessities for their children.
Since 1986, thousands of families have received new shoes and school supplies through the Carlin Morris Back-to-School Drive at Wilkinson Center. Carlin’s zeal and passion over the decades has made this drive an invaluable resource for the community. Over the last 36 years, we are proud to have helped a combined 40,000 children start a new school year with shoes, socks, and the school supplies they need to be successful.
So how did this amazing community outreach get started? Well, it all stems from the generous efforts of a very special volunteer. Carlin Morris started volunteering with Wilkinson Center nearly 40 years ago after learning about the organization from her church. During a volunteer event, Carlin noticed that many of the children being served were wearing old shoes with holes and tattered soles. Seeing this specific need in the community, Carlin worked with Wilkinson Center to begin the Shoe Drive.
The set-up for the Shoe Distribution is simple: kids come with their parents to a designated retail store to pick out a new pair of shoes and socks, and then Wilkinson Center pays the bill using funds given by generous donors. Volunteers are on hand to help measure the children’s feet and pick out the shoes with them. For many of these children, it will be the only pair of new shoes they will have for the whole year. With that in mind, Wilkinson Center encourages the families to choose versatile shoes, like athletic shoes for the younger kids and work-appropriate shoes for the older teens.
Over the years, a Backpack Distribution was added to the annual Shoe Distribution. The backpacks given to our clients are filled to the brim with new age-appropriate school supplies, so kids have the tools needed to learn. In 2018, the two separate distribution programs were combined and renamed the Carlin Morris Back-to-School Distribution. Each year, Wilkinson Center strives to raise enough funds to provide shoes for 600 children and backpacks for 200 children.
This year’s shoe shopping event is scheduled for the last weekend in July. With costs rising and supply chain challenges, we need more financial support than ever to make this event a success. The average cost of 1 backpack with school supplies is $60. The average cost of 1 pair of new shoes and socks is $40. You can donate at https://bit.ly/WCBacktoschool
It all started with the enthusiasm and commitment from one volunteer and has turned into a vital program that is a bright spot for families each year. Wilkinson Center is proud to honor