Project planners hope to collect school supplies for Salem classrooms

SALEM –The Brightside Project is asking residents to fill a bus with school supplies to help teachers in the Salem school district stock their classrooms, in turn helping the students they teach.

“We just wanted to do something a little different,” Brightside Project founder and director Scott Lewis said by phone.

The non-profit organization based in Salem plans to host the collection from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 19 in the Hofmeister Realty parking lot which can be accessed off of South Lincoln Avenue. Myer’s Equipment in Canfield donated the school bus being used for the school supply drive.

With the state’s tax-free shopping weekend coming up Friday, Saturday and Sunday, residents can stock up on school supplies for their own children and throw some extras in the cart to donate.

“By helping the teachers, we’re helping the kids,” Lewis said, adding that teachers know which kids really need assistance.

The idea of helping the teachers came from Brightside Project board member Cathy Hofmeister, who has three daughters who teach. Lewis also has teachers in the family, both his wife and his daughter. They know all too well that teachers many times spend their own money to buy up classroom supplies so students will always have what they need.

In trying to find another way to help students in need get the school supplies required in the classrooms, they decided to go through the teachers.

“A new school year can be challenging for families who don’t have the resources to purchase necessary school supplies and often times teachers feel the weight of these needs in their classroom causing them to spend money out of their own pocket to cover the costs and ensure their students are well-equipped and prepared for a successful school year,” Lewis said in a press release issued by his daughter, Lisa Wallace, who serves as the Brightside Project Marketing Director.

Some of the supplies they’re hoping community members will donate include “pencils, glue, crayons, markers, stickers, stamps, Post-It notes, colored pens, highlighters, dry-erase markers, small incentive prizes, individually wrapped candies, Kleenex, assorted sizes of Ziploc bags and Clorox wipes.”

“We know that teachers spend an average of $500 during the school year to meet the needs of their students –whether it’s supplies, food, clothing, or other classroom needs,” Wallace said in the press release. “We want to show our support and appreciation for everything they do for our community by collecting supplies from the community and distributing them directly to the teachers.”

The event provides an opportunity for giving back to teachers. Lewis said he hopes the school supply drive goes well in its inaugural year. Whatever they gather, they’ll distribute to the teachers, focusing primarily on the elementary grades. If the collection goes really well, they’ll go into the high school grades, too.

Lewis has a background in helping others. He previously directed the Big Reach Center of Hope in Greenford where tons of people would show up for the annual back-to-school event which featured haircuts, school supplies, book bags, clothing and food for families. After leaving there, he stepped back for a little while, then last year started the Brightside Project, a non-profit organization aimed at reaching out to kids who really need help to show them there is a bright side and there is hope.

The organization consists of all volunteers, including a board consisting of Hofmeister and her fellow board members, Lew and Vicki Thompson and Sondra O’Donnell. Now that the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization designation has been achieved, Lewis said they’ll be able to seek out grants and attract larger donations.

The group has a goal to raise funds to purchase a mobile unit to go to schools in Columbiana County and neighborhoods where they can help kids more directly. For now they’re sticking to Salem, but plans call for them to branch out into other communities in the county and into Mahoning County. A masquerade ball fundraiser is scheduled for Oct. 28 at the Salem Golf Club.

Last fall, the Brightside Project visited the area of South Lundy Avenue in Salem to provide children with personal items, books and healthy snacks. They’ve also done some distributions at the Salem Memorial Building and hosted a book-reading event. They plan to host more pop-up distributions in neighborhoods where kids may need a helping hand, advertising the times and places on social media. In September, the volunteers will head to the area of Third Street. Besides the distributed items, the kids can receive some mentoring.

According to the press release, the Brightside Project “reaches out to equip and empower children in Columbiana County and surrounding areas to help them reach their full potential.”

Visit www.brightsideprojectohio.org to learn more about the organization.

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