Summer fun is winding down and local families are preparing for the start of the 2010-2011 school year. The start of a new school year can be a stressful time for many families, as it can cause great strain on a family’s budget.
Following we will examine several resources available in this community, specifically for families with low-incomes or who have recently fallen on financial hard times (such as the primary breadwinner having lost his/her job or a major illness in the family). We will also take an inside look at one local mom’s method of preparing for back-to-school without breaking her family’s budget.
It can be difficult to ask for help, but these resources are here to be used.
Finding a helping hand:
- Family Services, Inc. – Is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help struggling families. It’s located at 1824 1st Avenue North. While a family’s income is a factor in determining services received, they also look at what is happening with the family “now,” as mentioned above.
- In order to receive a backpack of school supplies you will need : A photo id, proof of address, and Social Security numbers for all at the address. Once a family is signed up they are given a ticket and are able to pick up their supplies. **The last day to sign up to receive supplies is Friday, August 20th**
- Family Services, Inc. also has a free clothing section. Families can select ten items per visit and are limited to shopping once a week.
- Community Hope – Is located in Laurel at 204 Cedar Avenue. Services received at Community Hope are also based on income – though, they too take a family’s present situation into account.
- School supplies are available. There is no deadline as to when a family can access these services. However, their supplies are not endless.
- The volunteer this writer spoke to stated they have an extensive clothing section available and encourage individuals from the Laurel area and beyond to peruse their selections.
- Saint Vincent de Paul – For school supply needs Saint Vincent de Paul refers families to Family Services. However, they are able to assist with clothing needs. As with the other agencies, services are income-based. Families with a need can go to the Saint Vincent de Paul Charity Office at 2610 Montana Avenue and receive a voucher for clothing. This voucher can be redeemed at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store.
- Denim Drive at Rimrock Mall – According to Guest Services, individuals can bring their old jeans in and exchange them for coupons to be used at stores in the Mall for new jeans.
- Sears Kids’ Advantage Program – This program allows parents to exchange their children’s clothing (includes all children’s clothes and shoes, purchased at Sears) that are worn out. The clothes must still fit, but for those items run through the wringer at recess, this is a great program to utilize.
How can I help?
- Fill the Bus program at Rimrock Mall – If you go to Rimrock Mall right now you will find a bus with cards attached to it. These cards list a child and his/her name and grade. You can do one of two things: 1. Take a card and fill a backpack with the supplies needed, which you will return to the Guest Services kiosk at Mall. They will in turn give the backpacks to Family Services, Inc. to pass along to families in need. 2. Don’t have time to do the shopping, but you still want to help? Cash donations are accepted and appreciated. Drop your donations at the Guest Services desk.
- Donate school supplies to Community Hope – Community Hope could use additional school supplies and will continue to collect them through the start of the school year.
- Check with your neighborhood church – Perhaps they know of a family in need who could use your assistance, whether donating school supplies or money for a specific program such as ‘Dress a Child.’
One local mom’s practical advice
These tips are courtesy of Kara, a master at maintaining her family’s budget and a mother of three.
- Starting in June, Kara purchases one clothing item for her children each paycheck, rather than spending hundreds of dollars all at once in August.
- She recommends trolling for bargains at Ross dress for less, Wal-Mart, as well as keeping an eye out for coupons and sales. When she finds great deals she will sometimes purchase the next size. This trick allowed her to buy only one pair of shoes this year. She notes the importance of choosing items that will allow room for growth.
- Now that school supply lists are provided with the last report card of the year, Kara states she picks up an item from the list every time she is at Wal-Mart (once the supplies go on sale). Whether she’s there for a major grocery trip or just in for a gallon of milk, she will pick up something from the lists. She says she sometimes ends up with extras, but these are stored to be replaced throughout the school year.
If you don’t get the Billings Gazette it’s worth it to pick up the Sunday paper for the ads. Peruse the ads for coupons and the best deals of the week. In addition to the stores mentioned above, another great place for bargain hunters is the Goodwill Store located at 951 South 29th Street West.
What are your back to school shopping tips? Please share them in the comment section below.
Back to school dates:
Billings School District 2 resumes classes on Thursday, August 26th
Laurel School District resumes classes on Thursday, August 26th.
Park City School District resumes classes on Wednesday, August 25th.