‘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.”

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