People are often surprised to learn that there is hunger and need in prosperous Fairfax County. In fact, nearly 72,000 Fairfax County residents lived in poverty in 2015, including nearly 19,000 children. Approximately 55,000 students in Fairfax County Public Schools qualify for free or reduced-price meals in the 2017-2018 school year, which indicates that they and their families are struggling to pay for food and other necessities.
Fairfax-based non-profit Britepaths (formerly Our Daily Bread) has long provided food and financial assistance to individuals and families in need in the Fairfax County area, along with financial education, mentoring and other supports that aim to help them recover and maintain their financial stability.
Recognizing that purchasing school supplies can present a hardship for families who are struggling, Britepaths began providing school supply assistance 16 years ago. The original program model asked supporters to provide supplies or gift cards directly to the children of Britepaths’ clients.
In 2011, Britepaths became a founding member of the Collect for Kids partnership, and immediately saw the benefits of partnering to purchase the supplies at a steep discount and deliver them directly to schools to distribute to students with identified need.
The organization had served 350 students in 2010 under the old program model, but it was able to serve 438 in 2011. Britepaths has been able to serve exponentially more students in the subsequent years. By 2014, Britepaths served 1,400 students, and exceeded 2,000 the next year. Since 2015, the organization has served around 2,500 students each year. In 2017, Britepaths assisted 2,540 students at 15 partner schools.
Britepaths has been able to increase the number of students it serves due to generous donations of funds, backpacks and scientific calculators from hundreds of community members. Several businesses and community organizations also partner to provide grants, run backpack drives and offer volunteer support. The Rotary Club of Bailey’s Crossroads has partnered with Britepaths since 2012 to help fund supplies and provide volunteer support to deliver supplies to schools in the J.E.B. Stuart High School pyramid. The Maximus Foundation has provided a substantial grant each year since 2015 to help Britepaths purchase supplies. Youth and adult volunteers enjoy helping sort the supplies to be delivered to the partner schools. In 2017, 95 volunteers came out to help with the process.
Most of the students Britepaths serves attend schools in the Fairfax High School and J.E.B. Stuart High School pyramids, but the organization reaches out to additional FCPS schools that seek assistance to help their students.
A counselor at an FCPS middle school that received supplies through Britepaths’ Program noted the ongoing benefits to students. “These supplies were of enormous help toward the academic success of our financially neediest students. The supplies helped alleviate their stress and anxiety about starting school. These students made connections with their counselors and allowed counselors to continue to support them through the year. Great on-going counseling relationships were established with these students due to the early-in-the-year introductions to distribute supplies to them.”
Learn more about Britepaths’ Collect for Kids Back to School Program at: http://britepaths.org.
Contact Joanne Walton, Seasonal Programs Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703.273.8829.