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Northwestern Staff Donate School Supplies to Area Kids

Evanston’s Family Focus and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 among beneficiaries

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November 25, 2009 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Children from more than 100 Evanston and Chicago families began the school year with much needed school supplies thanks to the generosity of Northwestern University staff.

The Help Learning Thrive School Supply Drive was led by the Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council's (NUSAC), a group of volunteer staff members that participates in decision-making processes affecting Northwestern staff.

The NUSAC drive was launched on the Evanston campus in early August to provide every child in the community with basic materials needed for a successful school year.

Scores of Northwestern staff members donated notebooks, folders, glue sticks, pencils, pens, rulers, erasers, scissors, facial tissue and other basic school supplies.

The drive benefitted families affiliated with Evanston's Family Focus, a family support program that promotes the well-being of children; Evanston/Skokie School District 65; and the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights in Chicago, an organization that helps residents of public housing and refugees fleeing violence, torture or war and living in poverty.

Remaining supplies will be utilized throughout the school year by Family Focus' 75 after-school program participants.

Last summer, NUSAC provided a suggested buying list that was generated from the school supply list posted on the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Web site. Drop-off boxes for donated school supplies were located at the University's Kellogg School of Management, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, University Hall and the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

When the drive ended, Family Focus distributed the NUSAC school supplies in sturdy drawstring sacks at the organization's Back to School Fun Fest in mid-September.

"The children were excited that they didn't have to look far to get their school supplies," said Sandy T. Williams, director of programs for Family Focus in Evanston. "Many of the parents appreciated the support and were overwhelmed to know that they could get everything they needed for their children here."

The support from the Northwestern staff was overwhelming, said NUSAC member Elizabeth Rauch, assistant director of doctoral programs at the Kellogg School of Management and one of five Northwestern staff members on the committee. "Many people clearly are interested in participating in philanthropic activities and want to give back to the community."

Other NUSAC members on the school supply drive committee were Northwestern staff members Tara Hunter, Laura B. Amsden, Dauphine Gregory and Natasha Dennison.

NUSAC currently is hosting a fall coat drive that ends Nov. 13. The collected "gently used" coats will be donated to Family Focus in Evanston and the Heartland Alliance in Chicago.

NUSAC also has partnered with other local charities to donate items to those who might otherwise not have received any holiday gifts. Last December, NUSAC organized a successful holiday drive called "Give the Gift of Giving This Holiday Season."

As a result, 152 individuals and 26 departments from Northwestern signed up to donate toys and other goods. For example, each of the 45 children who resided at the Children's Home + Aid Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Child and Family Center in Evanston received slippers, a sweatshirt and sweatpants. (The Rice Child + Family Center treats vulnerable children exposed to violence and abuse with the goal of returning them to a loving family. The children, often wards of the state, receive therapy and treatment while living on site.)

Donated gifts also were distributed to 61 families who reached out to Evanston's Family Focus; 50 adults and 16 children who reached out to Inspiration Corporation in Chicago, a non-profit organization that aids people who are affected by homelessness and poverty; and 70 children whose parents are incarcerated and who are being served by Chicago's Project Angel Tree.

NUSAC will sponsor another NUSAC Gives Back holiday gift drive that will run from Nov. 16 through Dec. 11 in Evanston and through mid-December on the Chicago campus. The donated gifts will benefit Family Focus and the Children's Home + Aid Rice Child and Family Center, both in Evanston, and Project Angel Tree, Inspiration Corporation and Heartland Alliance, all three in Chicago.