Tools for School off and running

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 4, 2001


LAPLACE – River Parishes Tools for School, an organization that provides needy students with required school supplies, kicked off this year’s fund-raising by accepting a $500 check from Louisiana Federal Credit Union in LaPlace. The money, along with donations from other area businesses will be used to buy some Tri-Parish public school students basic supplies such as notebooks, pens, crayons, glue, construction paper and rulers. According to Betty Coleman Clement, founder and coordinator of the program, more than 5,000 students have been served since the program began in 1996. Shortly after starting the program in St. John, Clement expanded it to include two bordering parishes, St. Charles and St. James. It was organized as a cooperative effort involving local churches, businesses and residents in the three parishes. Currently, the program is under the auspices of New Wine Development Corporation, an affiliate of New Wine Christian Fellowship in LaPlace. “I started the program because there was a need. I’ve known through the years numerous students who have not had supplies and needed them,” said Clement, who only recently retired from teaching herself. “We do the basics, what it takes for a child to learn.” Other contributors included Shell Chemical Company, which also donated $500, and a pledge of $600 from River Parishes Education Initiatives. Office Depot, where the supplies will be purchased, has agreed to provide the items at a discount. The drive will continue to run through Aug. 31, and Clement encourages other businesses and citizens to join in helping her raise money for the cause. “As students make plans to begin a new academic year, many parents in the River Parishes will find that they cannot afford the school supplies their children need,” said Clement. “We want to insure that students have the tools they need to function effectively in the classroom.” The supplies purchased will be delivered to the school districts, and the individual schools will distribute supplies as they see fit during the first week of school. “We’re not sure how they will set it up this year,” said Clement, who added that in the past her organization members delivered supplies to the students themselves. Because of the growth of the program and the time urgency involved, the schools now handle dispersement. “This is only meant to cover the neediest of children, only those who cannot afford the supplies,” she said. Others involved in the program are the Rev. Neil Bernard, who serves as the group’s co-chairperson and committee members Julie Variste and Lily Acosta Galland. The congregation of New Wine provided supplies and clothing to children in St. John Parish schools before joining the River Parishes Tools for School initiative. Parents are asked not to contact the schools, New Wine or Clement, because the supplies donations will be taken care of through the schools by identifying who is in need of them. Those wishing to donate money can contact Clement at 652-1799 or mail donations to Tools for School, P.O. Box 1671, LaPlace, LA 70068-1671. “If we can just help with some of the things, then we have achieved our goal. I don’t know what the complete answer is, but we will do our best,” said Clement.