The summer’s biggest back-to-school party for kids unfortunately won’t happen this year, but secret elves worked behind the scenes to make magic happen. The coronavirus has forced many organizers of initiatives including the Greater Tulsa Realtor Association’s (GTAR) Backpacks for Kids event to rethink strategically on how to best distribute items safely to those who need it most.
Thanks to the efforts of GTAR member Shelley Carson and other realtors in the Tulsa metro area, the delivery of 438 backpacks to Family & Children’s Services on Aug. 5 brings the group assurance that children will receive what they need for the school year, whether they attend virtually or in person. Due to the pandemic, GTAR had to downsize the number of volunteers who assemble the backpacks. For those who did, masks were required, and social distancing was mandatory as a safety precaution.
Since 2006, GTAR has partnered with Family & Children’s Services (F&CS) to collect items and present a backpack full of toiletries and a new school outfit for children heading back to school who are also helped by F&CS.
“It is a labor of love, and it definitely takes a committee because I wasn’t sure how this year would go with everything being so incredibly different,” Carson said. “We didn’t have the usual routes of fundraising that we do, but everyone was even more generous this year. We’re a little short this year, but we felt we have enough to move forward with the reserves we’ve had stacked up over the year. We hope to be back on track next year.“
The committee consulted with Crystal Houck, senior program director of F&CS’ Comprehensive Home-Based Services (CHBS), to discuss immediate need and map out new logistics due to limited stock of some items in stores and online due to pandemic. For example, instead of receiving a full school uniform (shoes, shirt, jeans) this year, the kids will receive a backpack, underwear, socks, toiletries and a gift card.
“There were a lot of hiccups and restrictions that we had to work through,” Carson said. “The kids really love the light-up shoes the most, and we’re disappointed that we weren’t able to buy them this year. So, it was kind of a leap of faith for this project to give us the momentum to continue knowing that this is going to be a challenging year for the kids.
“We don’t get to do the party and present the backpacks to the kids for obvious reasons, but we’re so thankful that we got to pull it off.”
Info: GTAR’s Backpacks for Kids.