Back to School Program Receives National Recognition

Posted on July 26, 2007

The Back to School events, now held in four communities throughout St. Clair County, will be featured at a national conference for community foundations this September.

Steve Joul, president of the Central Minnesota Community Foundation, is organizing the session on unique events of community foundations, and selected the Back to School event as one of only three that will be featured at the Fall Conference for Community Foundations.

The annual conference is organized by the Council on Foundations, based in Washington D.C., and draws hundreds of people from throughout the United States and foreign countries. This year’s conference will be held in San Francisco in mid September.

According to Juanita Gittings, Chair of Back to School, the events have become the largest ongoing program of the Community Foundation of St. Clair County. “Actually though, the events don’t just belong to the Community Foundation,” said Gittings. “We have so much support from other nonprofit and for-profit businesses that we really consider these events to be owned by the communities that host them.”

According to Gittings, Chase Bank will be the top corporate partner this year with total support of $9,600. LaSalle Bank, another long-time partner of the events, will contribute $5,000 which brings their four-year total to $20,000. The Foundation’s goal in 2007 is to raise $37,700 to cover all of the projected costs.

“The amount of support we receive, both financial and volunteer time, is incredible,” added Gittings. She estimates that over 300 volunteers will donate over 800 hours of time to distribute 2,900 backpacks stuffed with school supplies to low income children in Algonac, East China, Capac and Port Huron.

The Back to School events were created in 2003 by the Community Foundation and Salvation Army as a way to help prepare children for a successful start to the school year. By the time the last event is held in late August, 10,600 backpacks will have been distributed since the program began in 2003.

The Port Huron event also includes a free picnic hosted by “Celebrity Chefs” from throughout the community. This year the Chefs once again anticipate cooking and serving at least 2,000 hot dogs and hamburgers under the food tent in the south McMorran parking lot.

This year’s events begin on August 21st and conclude on the 24th.

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