SOS Save our students; Rusk’s annual school supply drive still in need of sponsors

by Cristin Parker

The Tree of Promise’s annual More than a Backpack school supply drive is gathering steam, but still needs help from the community.

The nonprofit, faith-based community building organization is a “mite shy” of its nearly $15,000 goal for this year’s drive. To date 21 local businesses, organizations and churches have donated a total of $4,902.13 toward school supply costs. Tree of Promise officials reported the organization’s estimated costs for this year’s Backpack program is $11,395 for supplies and $3,450 for backpacks, totaling $14,845.

“We’re not nearly there yet,” drive co-organizer Lezlie Carvell said. “There is still plenty of time and there are still plenty of opportunities to help us reach our goal to support our future and younger Rusk Eagles.”

The Tree wants to be able to provide 500 backpacks, with complete sets of school supplies – 25 sets each for prekindergarten 3- and 4-year-olds and 50 sets each for kindergarteners through eighth graders – for the upcoming school year.

“We do what we do to because we want to make our community a stronger, better place,” Hardy said in an earlier interview.

According to the organization’s website, its mission is to “build more faithful, stronger and successful families and individuals for a better community by bringing together resources of love, talent, time, equipment and finances from families/individuals, churches, businesses, schools, and the city.”

Backpacks and school supplies will be offered to Rusk students on a first come, first served basis, during the annual back-to-school fair set for 4 to 7 p.m., Monday, Aug. 13, at the Rusk Civic Center, 555 Euclid St. Proof of residency within the Rusk school district will be required to receive supplies and backpacks.

“Any business, group, organization, church, whoever that donates is invited and welcome to come out to the Civic Center and help hand out supplies during the back to school fair,” Cavell said. “We always have a great deal of fun and it’s a wonderful way to get out and meet the community.”

To make a monetary donation, visit Austin Bank-Rusk and deposit funds directly to the Tree’s account or visit the Tree of Promise’s website, and make donations through PayPal’s Giving Fund, an IRS-registered 501(c)(3) public charity. Later this summer, Brookshire Brothers grocery store in Rusk will be providing a bin to collect donations of the prepackaged backpack and supply bundles the store offers annually. Shoppers can purchase a bundle at the retail store and donate it to the Tree of Promise’s drive when it becomes available. To volunteer to help with any of the Tree of Promise’s programs, call the office, (903) 683-0414.