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Group providing school supplies to needy

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / August 26, 1998

LAPLACE – It is that time of the year again. Time for students and parentsto go to their local stores to pick up supplies the students will need to get them through another school year.

Unfortunately, there are those who, for whatever reason, do not have the financial ability to purchase those needed supplies. That is where theRiver Parishes Tools for School program comes in.

Betty Clement, an educator at East St. John High School, started theinitiative two years at the school to help supply students in need with such items as paper, pencils, pens and notebooks. Last year, working withthe business, education and religious communities, Clement expanded the program to the tri-parish area, serving over 300 students.

In the initiative, parents are asked to give the name of a child in need to the principals in the tri-parish area. The principals are asked to make alist of the students in their schools who are in need of assistance and to send that list to program coordinators. Working with the Rev. Neil Bernardand the New Wine Fellowship in LaPlace, supplies are collected from local stores and distributed to the students. Last year, over $1,500 worth ofsupplies was bought for the program.

The major contributor to the program is the Louisiana Federal Credit Union which came on board the first year of the program. Other majorcontributors were the Shell Oil Co. and the River Parish EducationInitiative. Additional funding comes from area churches and businesses.Clement said it was the Louisiana Federal Credit Union’s commitment to increase the contribution to the program that made expanding it to the tri-parish area possible.

“We sponsor several education programs in the parishes, and this is one we feel strongly about,” Debbie Farris, marketing director for Louisiana Federal Credit Union, said.

Clement has worked with a number of similar projects in the past, from raising money for a blind girl to doing food projects for people who have lost their homes to fires. Clement would also buy supplies for students inneed.

Bernard, who saw the need to supply students with supplies while being involved in Shell’s Partners of Education program, shared that observation with his congregation at New Wine one Sunday and collected over $1,000 for clothes and supplies for students. Clement heard about what theFellowship was doing and partnered up with them. While Clementcoordinates the program and makes contacts, Bernard and the congregation are handling the purchasing and delivering aspect of the program.

“I feel kids should not be limited in their education because of a lack of school supplies,” Bernard said. “The primary call of the church is to servethe people.”Clement and Lori Block, a member of the River Parishes Tools for School board, said they believe it is the only project of its kind in the River Parishes. In addition to distributing supplies at the beginning of theschool year, supplies are also available throughout the year.

“Our goal is to put school supplies in each needy child’s hands,” Clement said.

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