Remember the first day of school and the excitement of a new outfit, book bag and school supplies? Something new for school is virtually expected, yet many children won’t have what they need as they return to the classroom. They have no memories of the joy of a new item for school, yet you can change that.

Now, concerned area residents can help students in need by providing school-related items. When money, gift cards and supplies are donated, Advocates for Children will ensure their student clients have what they need.

Advocates is challenging the area communities they serve in 11 counties to make returning to school an exciting time for children living in the shelter and others who come to the regional nonprofit for essential resources. More than 15,000 children and their families rely on Advocates annually, and donor support is critical. The 24% inflation rate for school supplies over the past two years is a significant challenge.

“We’re counting on the generosity of our service area residents to help these children receive the clothing, shoes, backpacks, calculators, hoodies, jackets and school supplies they need to attend school,” said Rachel Castillo, president and CEO of Advocates for Children. “Donations can be financial, gift cards or new school supplies. The 24% inflation rate for those supplies over the past two years is a significant challenge and can mean some children will be unable to buy clothes and shoes in order to purchase required supplies,” she explained.

Castillo also said that helping the children prepare for school is essential and life-changing for them. “Returning to the classroom is a critical time. They can go to school with confidence, and that can lead to academic success.”

She stated that most school-age children at Advocates are ages 10-18. “We have an Amazon Wish List to help people who prefer to shop and ship,” she continued, “but of course, the pre-teens and teens in particular enjoy helping select their own clothes so we also accept gift cards.”

Donations of money and gift cards allow Advocates to choose what is needed most and purchase the correct sizes for the young clients. The Advocates team is already working toward meeting the needs of thousands of children served by the regional organization.

Beyond the Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter, the charity serves children in programs that help families overcome severe poverty barriers that can separate children from their parents. Numerous youth housing programs and other services also focus on students with many students entering the programs throughout the year.

Research on costs shows that a typical 2nd grader requires $115 in school supplies. Graph paper is up 18%, and inflation has affected every item, from folders to crayons to highlighters. The required water bottles can run $13-38 and some schools also require headphones, mics, calculators and even laptops. The National Retail Federation estimates school supplies will hit a record $41.5 billion this year.