Smart Start Project
Our first Smart Start project was for the start of school in 1999, when we provided school supplies kits to every kindergarten student in the Athens City School District. In following years we have continued the project, expanding it as funds permitted. Beginning in 2001, and each year since then, we have been able to include all public school kindergarten students in Athens County. This has required successful fund-raising by the Club throughout the year, careful shopping for the supplies, generous discounting by several vendors, and teamwork by many members of the Club (and their children) assembling more than 600 kits each August.
The original project goals included serving a large number of children, having a direct impact upon the children served, establishing a partnership between the community and the schools, and helping a diverse group in the Athens area. The committee chairman heard a parent say how expensive it is to get supplies for children when they go to school. This helped formulate the idea of providing school supplies for a group of children. After contacting the County Superintendent's Office to get figures for all of the schools on the number of children in Athens County schools grades K through 3, the committee was able to define a workable population. We chose Athens City Schools kindergardeners. This group would be between 225 and 250 students. The committee then decided not to approach the project with the idea of just providing for the disadvantaged students. All students would start out with the same quality supplies.
The Athens City Superintendent was contacted to see if there was interest in our project. He was very supportive. He sent our committee a list of what was required for the kindergarten children and verification of the number needed. Our project "Smart Start" was off and running. Bids were sent out so that we could get the best prices and thereby determine the amount of money needed.
In 1999, the "Smart Start" kits consisted of a plastic school supplies box filled with 2 Elmer's glue-4 oz., 2 glue sticks, 1 pair Fiskars kindergarten scissors, a box crayola crayons, and 2 pencils with the Kiwanis logo. Through careful shopping we were able to fund the project for just under $1300. A group of fellow Kiwanians spent several hours one morning, two weeks before the beginning of school, putting the kits together. We delivered them to the Superintendent's Office in the afternoon. They were presented to the Athens City School Board that evening.
Two-hundred-twenty-six children received our kits the first day of school. The extra kits would be given to new students that come during various times in the school year. We received calls from several elementary principals thanking us for the kits. One of the kindergarten classes wrote us a "BIG" letter. Several parents commented to Kiwanis members about how pleased they were to have everything ready for their children at the start of the school year. It is difficult to calculate the number of hours involved because of use of fax and e-mail cuts down on waiting time. Twenty-five hours is probably a realistic estimate. Seven members were involved in one way or another.