‘It’s such a huge help’
Single Parents Association of Newfoundland helps provide kids with school supplies
Karen Dwyer is glad to be getting recently purchased school supplies ready for her three boys in her new home in the west end of St. John’s.
It wasn’t that long ago when she needed help around this time of year.
About six years ago, back when she had recently separated from her husband and was unemployed, she couldn’t afford to buy all the things her kids — then in elementary school — needed to head back to school.
“It wasn’t a good situation. It was a real challenge for me. I was only getting child support at the time to try and pay for everything,” Dwyer told The Telegram Tuesday.
“There was a long list of school supplies they needed and I just couldn’t afford to get them all.”
Dwyer often turned to the Single Parents Association of Newfoundland (SPAN) to get the school supplies. The association works every year to help offset back-to-school costs for singleparent families by providing backpacks and school supplies to K-12 students who need them.
“Oh my gosh, it’s such a huge help,” said Dwyer, who is relieved to be in a better financial situation these days. “I wouldn’t have done it without their help.”
Dwyer is one of about 200 families, on average, which SPAN has helped each year around this time, but executive director Elaine Balsom said this year there’s a particularly large demand.
As of Tuesday, there were 100 children on the association’s waiting list for school supplies.
“The need has definitely increased this year,” said Balsom, adding that many parents are reporting a loss of employment or other change in circumstances this past year.
“With the economic environment, things have gotten more expensive and there are more pressures put on parents. The light bill is going up, the cost of food has gone up and kids need sneakers and clothes, not just supplies.
“So, if we can at least help with this part, it would make things a lot easier on families.”
The association welcomes donations, including exercise books, pens, markers, pencils, binders, calculators, math sets, graph paper, pencil cases and duo tangs, as well as monetary donations so staff members can buy the supplies.
“It all adds up and can be very expensive. It’s difficult to get all these things when you have one income, so this gives single parents such a sense of relief,” Balsom said. “And the kids are just delighted. Their faces light up when they get a new back pack.”
Dwyer agrees that the kids’ happiness is most important.
“There are so many people who go through hard times and they should never be ashamed to ask for help,” Dwyer said. “The kids get what they need and that’s all that matters.”