Written by Phil Cerroni
Community organizations join forces to help children most in need
Over 2,000 students and their parents benefited from the school supply initiative spearheaded by the Irving Community Action Network (ICAN) at Irving High School Aug. 18.
“When it is all said and done, we will give away almost 3,500 backpacks to the kids,” said Doug Fox, Executive Director of the Irving YMCA and Chairman of ICAN. “Last year, we did it at the Irving Mall to maximize our number of partners. We gave away 1,500 backpacks last year, but there was a flaw in the way we did it at the mall. We identified Irving High School as a place where we can get more kids through safer and quicker.
“We’ve worked with the school district in a number of different departments to put this event on,” Fox said. “Our committee has focused on making sure those who need the backpacks the most are the ones who receive them. We have 70 partners this year; we had 35 or 40 last year.
“Irving Bible Church has been a huge supporter both financially and with volunteers,” Fox said. “The Irving Las Colinas Rotary Club gave $5,000 to buy back packs. Chase Bank and a long list of others have helped. Today, what has been really impressive is, besides the number of adult volunteers, we have all of the ROTC students from Irving High School. They are helping with the check in and handing out the supplies. They have just been outstanding. The future is bright looking at these kids the way they are helping out the adults today.”
The Irving Senior Arts Program (ISAP) provided 30 volunteers.
“I was contacted by Thelma Cantu, coordinator of Partners in Education with the Irving Independent School District (Irving ISD),” said Kitty Baker, founder and director of ISAP. “All of our members love giving back to the community for all that we receive from the community and all the ticketing that we get.”
When parents arrived, they presented their ticket to the ISAP greeters, who gave them their golden passport and told them how to begin the process to receive their backpack and school supplies. They had to visit at least five vendors and exhibitors at the information fair before going to the dental and vision screenings.
Jennifer Dickson attends Irving Bible Church and is an assistant principal at Johnson Elementary in Irving ISD.
“I think it’s neat to see the different groups come together, the churches and the different volunteer groups, partnering with the district,” Dickson said. “Our kids who really need school supplies are able to get their needs met whether it’s vision or medical or school supplies. It’s just really neat to see the community come together, and it’s fun to be a part of it.”
Wendy Gibson, a Senior Executive Assistant with Chase Bank in Irving, said they have handled filling the backpacks for the last two years.
“We stuffed about 1500 of these backpacks and arranged to have them picked up from our building and brought over here,” Gibson said. “Our volunteers are here today handing the backpacks out to the children. We also collected supplies from other businesses, and we did a backpack drive our self, and donated about 200.”
Several departments throughout Irving ISD were involved.
“This is a business and community partnership with Irving ISD to bring backpacks with school supplies to the children most in need in Irving ISD,” said Erin Yacho, Coordinator of Parent Involvement for Irving ISD. “There have been different events and activities that have gone on at different places like Irving Bible Church, Chase Bank and other churches and businesses and organizations. We wanted to bring everybody together and not only get the synergy that will bring and be able to serve more people but also to bring them more.
“So we added an informational fair with close to 30 booths who are talking about social services for the needy in Irving. We also added visual and dental screening run by volunteers from the community.
“Excess backpacks will be distributed to the campuses, and the schools will give those to the most needy,” Yacho said. “There is an event called Back to School Fiesta at Irving Mall every year, and the initial reason for that event was to give vaccinations and backpacks. But what we wanted a venue that would be just for Irving ISD kids.”
“Over 100 volunteers are here from the companies and churches that donated the supplies. We used the free and reduced lunch list and went to the bottom of that list and invited those families. We plan to do 6,000 next year.
“Food services provided breakfast or lunch for the children,” Yacho said. “(Students and parents) went through the informational fair, then the medical, then received their backpack and picked up breakfast or lunch on their way out, all free of charge. Volunteers from all over the community came: Irving ISD’s Security Department, Communications, Parent Involvement, and Teen Court came.”
Vision and Dental
Dr. Stephen Crane from Baylor College of Dentistry, four dental students, two students from the University of Texas at Dallas, and Dr. Rena Cuba, who graduated from Baylor College of Dentistry in 2004, performed the dental screenings. In three hours they had examined 90 children and expected to examine about 150 children by the end of the day.
“We are doing a visual, oral screening,” Dr. Crane said. “We’re looking to see the condition of their mouths and if they are getting good dental care. If we see any problems, we write it down on a sheet, and we inform the parents that the child needs to have certain things in their mouth addressed and fixed. We have information about how to become a patient at the dental school and the Community Dental Care Clinics which accept Medicaid and CHIP.”
Irving Lions Clubs were on hand to do the vision screenings.
“We are doing very preliminary eye exams,” said John Stare with Irving Noonday Lions Club. “If we notice a problem, we let the parents know that the student needs to see the nurse at school to have their eyes reexamined. We have a vision clinic set up for Sep. 19 and another one in November where the children can see an optometrist. They can pick out frames, and they will get their eyeglasses at no charge.”
Stare was keeping a data base of all the students they felt needed to be examined by the nurse, and he said they would send those names to Irving ISD.
More services for families with financial needs
Irving Bible Church: Ministries include medical, single parent, ESL, citizenship, food, student, and career transition workshops. Go to IrvingBible.org for a full listing of services.
Launchability, ECI and Supported Employment: These groups provide services to children and adults who have a developmental delay. They help adults with disabilities find jobs. They are funded by United Way and accept Medicaid and private insurance for the therapies for conditions such as autism.
Juice Plus: A whole food supplement that contains 17 fruits, vegetables and grains has a child study that will allow one child per adult in a family to take the product for free. Go to juiceplus.com for more information.
Earn It, Keep It Save It: A United Way program which offers free tax preparation for families with incomes below $50,000. Go to www.irvingcares.org/free-tax-prep-at-irving-cares.
Boy Scouts: Citizenship training and personal fitness. Go to beascout.scouting.org.