Non-profit plans to provide nearly 1,000 students with school supplies as cost increases

Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 6:13 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - School supplies for just one student can cost hundreds of dollars. That’s why Open Heartland in Iowa City is planning to give out a full list of items to nearly one thousand students in the area after realizing the need among one specific community.

Co-founder of the non-profit, Elizabeth Bernal knows firsthand how important a full backpack is to a student’s confidence during a new school year. It’s especially relevant this year for children of immigrant parents.

“Giving some support with the school supplies, it’s very little but it’s very important so they can feel like, ‘Okay, I’m here, prepared, and I am the same as other students in the school,’” she told TV-9.

That’s why she and the rest of Open Heartland are giving away school supplies for the third year in a row to more than 280 Latino families in the Johnson County area. It’s a part of their school supply giveaway event.

Co-Founder, Deb Dunkhase, says inflation has impacted their efforts in more than one way.

“Everything that is on the Iowa City School District list, they will be able to pick up that day,” said Dunkhase.

When they started in 2019, they served around 100 students. The next year they saw nearly 500 children. This year, they expect nearly 1,000

The more expensive these basic needs are, the more people need their help.

“Geico donates the backpacks and gives us cash to purchase the supplies. We also have a Facebook page so families who are buying supplies for their kids, or if you just want to help you can go to our Facebook page, find our wish list, and drop off donations here at Open Heartland,” said Dunkhase.

As of Monday morning, they have 10% of what they need to serve. But the event does not begin until August 14th.

Anything that still needs to be purchased by the time of the event, will be covered by donated funds to ensure no child is without their school supplies.

“People now know that they can trust Open Heartland, they can rely on us. We have worked really hard over the past three years to build relationships,” said Dunkhase.

The first four days volunteers go to a different mobile home park each day to hand out the supplies. On the last day, they open up their location in Iowa City for anyone else who missed the first chance.

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