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Support sought for back-to-school drive: Samaritan House seeks to help 900 impoverished kids
July 27, 2016, 05:00 AM By Samantha Weigel Daily Journal

Daily Journal file photo
Samaritan House regularly gives out backpacks with school supplies for those who need them, but officials with the nonprofit say the need is growing even more this year.

Stylists from local salons provided nearly 50 kids with haircuts Tuesday.

The first day of school can be stressful for students, particularly those whose families are struggling to afford the area’s high cost of living. This week, the nonprofit Samaritan House is appealing to the generosity of the community as it seeks to provide hundreds of local children living in poverty with school supplies and new shoes.

This year’s back-to-school drive may be the San Mateo-based nonprofit’s largest as nearly 900 local children who live in poverty have signed up to receive backpacks, gift certificates for new shoes, erasers, pencils, notebooks and other supplies critical to their education. The list of those seeking help has almost doubled as low-income parents who want the best for their children struggle to afford the area’s high cost of living, said Samaritan House CEO Bart Charlow.

Now, Samaritan House is seeking donations by this Friday for the annual giveaway that makes a big difference in the life of a child whose family is struggling to survive, Charlow said.

“The idea is every kid deserves his or her dignity. And when they feel comfortable with themselves and around the other kids, they’re prepared to learn better,” Charlow said. “There are so many families stretched beyond the limits with people who are struggling to pay their rent, much less have food on the table, take care of health care [and] clothes for the kids.”

With time running out, Samaritan House is asking for donations to be made by July 29, as the nonprofit plans its annual giveaway to registered participants next week. One of the most needed donations are $15 gift certificates to Payless Shoes, Charlow said. As part of the back-to-school drive, dozens of children visited the Samaritan House headquarters Tuesday to receive free haircuts and Charlow noted clothing is frequently distributed to kids in sizes ranging from infants to teens.

Last year, Samaritan House gave out nearly 500 backpacks packed by volunteers with materials donated by local residents and businesses. This year, the list of those seeking assistance has ballooned to 900 kids. Charlow noted there’s been an uptick across the board in the numbers of those turning to charities for assistance.

“The increase has been on a crescendo, in part since the income inequality has been growing so markedly in the area. People have to live here in order to supply all these vital services we need. They clean our homes, fix our cars, they build our homes, they serve us in so many ways,” Charlow pointed out. “The housing crisis has squeezed them mercilessly. We’ve seen so many families that are doubling up, tripling up or more in one household just so parents can live close to a job [and] keep their children in a good school.”

Providing kids with new supplies, items students are typically expected to show up with on that first day of school, is more than just a financial assistance to the family. It can help children feel like they belong, Charlow said.

“It gives them a sense of worth, it gives the children a sense of belonging when they go to school and they look like other kids,” Charlow said. “Every parent wants the best they can give to their children. They sacrifice almost anything to make sure their children have opportunities and the children feel comfortable. But these families that are the working poor families, are sacrificing so much every day and the children are going to the same public school as privileged children.”

Stylists from local salons provided nearly 50 kids with haircuts Tuesday afternoon, and Charlow emphasized the new shoes and backpacks can have an impact on their schooling.

“They’re not only sitting there looking good, but they’re feeling good when they have a backpack full of supplies. They don’t worry about those things, they can get right down to their homework,” Charlow said.

The long-standing nonprofit offers a range of services and its children’s programs include serving lunch to 120 kids every day during the summer, offering a summer reading program, providing free clothing as well as Halloween costumes through its Kid Closet, distributing bikes and helmets, and of course, the backpack giveaway.

The families must be pre-approved to receive assistance and some of those who will receive back-to-school assistance come from Samaritan House’s partner agencies, such as CORA, or Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse. Charlow said hundreds are expected to line up Aug. 6 to pick from the volunteer-filled backpacks and he’s hopeful more donations will arrive.

Those interested in helping can drop off items at the San Mateo headquarters or donate online via the Samaritan House website as well as through Amazon. A $50 donation pays for two backpacks filled with supplies and Charlow emphasized they’re in need of $15 Payless ShoeSource gift cards.

With the program having grown over the years and more families seeking assistance, Charlow emphasized the backpacks, shoes and haircuts help youth and their families live with dignity.

“You should see the smiles on the children, they are thrilled. They’re showing one another and their parents, they’re just giggling with delight,” Charlow said. “They love being able to pick for themselves instead of feeling like it’s a handout.”

Visit samaritanhousesanmateo.org for more information or to donate online. Donations can be dropped off 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 4031 Pacific Blvd., San Mateo.


(650) 344-5200 ext. 106



Tags: charlow, children, their, school, samaritan, families,

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