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Single Parents Association seeks ‘bare necessities’ for Back to School Program

Elaine Balsom is the executive director of Single Parents Association, a non-profit organization that helps low-income, single parent families. One of the programs it offers is the Back to School project, where donated school supplies are giving  to clients of the association. These backpacks are being sent to a mother and daughter heading back to school in Marystown.
Elaine Balsom is the executive director of Single Parents Association, a non-profit organization that helps low-income, single parent families. One of the programs it offers is the Back to School project, where donated school supplies are giving to clients of the association. These backpacks are being sent to a mother and daughter heading back to school in Marystown. - Jasmine Burt

Plea sent out for pens, pencil cases and notepads

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Krista Koerner, a single mother, made a vow that when she was financially back on her feet, she would give back to the Single Parents Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SPANL) for all the help they gave her. 

Koerner was a client of SPANL nearly a decade ago, when her youngest daughter was in elementary school and she was struggling to go back to school herself. 

Now, she is a certified public accountant for St. John Ambulance and sits on the board for the association that once provided her with the resources she needed to get where she is.

SPANL has been giving single-parent, low-income families donated school supplies for over 20 years through its Back to School project. 

Koerner explains that single parents, especially ones who are going back to school themselves, have a hard time getting school supplies. One reason for that is the expenses of child care during the summer.

“Any extra money I had went towards my daughter’s care so I could do my mandatory work terms. I was trying to find $200 to buy the things on this list that was as long as your arm, but

every cent at the end of the month was put into child care for my daughter through the summer,” Koerner said.

The project helped 149 families facing emergencies last year, after their 300 registered clients.

“By giving people that funding in times of their life that they needed — it’s an investment in people, because it comes back two-fold,” Koerner said. “If I had to drop out of school, then my daughter would never have had that real-life example of what happens.” 

Koerner’s daughter is now studying at Concordia University, and says she can remember vividly the moment she flung that donated backpack over her shoulders with pride.

But this year the association and its project doesn’t even have the bare necessities to send kids back to school with. 

“Some of the backpacks that we have packed are only partially packed because we don’t have all the supplies to go in them,” said Elaine Balsom, executive director of the Single Parents Association. 

There have been years where the association runs out of some supplies, like calculators and math sets, but this year it is running low on things like exercise books, pens and pencil cases, she says. 

“These are things that cost very little that people can pick up and donate to us, and kids need these things from K-12.” 

She says this year has been difficult, and she considers the economy to be partly to blame.

“Those that have donated to us have cut back on their donations, and personal donations have decreased because people have to make decisions as to what they can donate to and how much,” she said.

Since their plea for donated school supplies, Balsom said, they have had some response on their Facebook ads.

“One ad reached over 14,000 people, but we didn’t see the result of that,” she said. “We really need people to act, and hopefully we can have supplies by the start of school.”

The association still needs 115 to 120 backpacks — and supplies to put in them — by Aug. 26-27.

“Let us get children back to school with a sense of pride, and not to be bullied because they don’t have the things they need,” Balsom said.

Some of the supplies the association still needs are rulers, backpacks — either empty or containing supplies — pencil sharpeners, rulers and graph paper. 

Anyone wanting to help can make a donation of school supplies at the Single Parents Association office in St. John's during its hours of operation from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-4 p.m.

Call 738-3401 to get more information.

jasmine.burt@thetelegram.com
Twitter: @JasmineBurtNL

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