Believe it or not, area students will be headed back to school in just a matter of weeks, which means it’s time for school supply shopping. For those families who may struggle financially this time of year, a local organization is offering help.
CACTUS — Community and Children Teaming Up 4 Success — is a local nonprofit that provides a backpack full of needed school supplies to local students each August. Coordinator Mary Jo Sartin said back-to-school season can be tough for families on a tight budget, which is where CACTUS comes in.
“Back to school time is rough on a lot of families with the need to often get clothes and haircuts and shoes and school supplies, so this is one way we can support the education of our students by helping with school supplies that they’ll need,” she said.
Families are asked to register for supplies so CACTUS volunteers can make sure they have enough on hand, but the only requirement is the student must live in or attend a school in Pettis County. The deadline to sign up via a paper form is Wednesday, and the last day to sign up online is Friday, July 31.
Forms can be found online at sedaliacactus.org or at the main school offices in Dresden, Houstonia, La Monte, Green Ridge and Smithton. Families may also sign up at Open Door, the Salvation Army, Missouri Valley Community Action Agency, the Pettis County Health Center or Pettis County Community Partnership.
CACTUS provided backpacks to 1,627 students in 2014, which Sartin said is a little lower than 2013, but more than 2012. She said she expects to serve roughly the same number of students this year. She said they receive the most requests from Sedalia, mostly because the Sedalia School District 200 is the largest district in the county, but requests come in from all over Pettis County.
Sartin said something as small as a backpack full of supplies can go a long way for some local families.
“Most of them are very appreciative of the extra help and what we can do for them,” she said. “There’s a young single mother of three, two of her kids are in school, and it makes a big difference for her. She’s also a mother that’s come and help volunteer.”
Donations are accepted year-round due to CACTUS continuing to serve schools throughout the school year. CACTUS volunteers have become pros at finding sales on school supplies all year long to get the most items possible.
“It isn’t quite as busy at certain parts of the year, but it’s a year-round project — even after school starts we make deliveries to the schools when they need things,” Sartin said. “Usually a counselor or social worker calls and says the students need pencils or spirals, or we just got a family of three who have nothing and we pack up the backpacks and take them to them.
“Sometimes it’s for specific students, sometimes, you know how students will say I need this or I need that. The counselors and social workers are good about keeping things on hand, but then they run out and then they call us.”
Sartin said they are typically short on dry erase markers, highlighters, tab dividers and three-ring binders.
Volunteers are also needed to help with packing supplies. CACTUS volunteers will work Aug. 5 and 6, and families will pick up supplies Aug. 6-8.
To volunteer, make a donation or sign up for supplies, visit sedaliacactus.org or www.facebook.com/groups/CACTUSofPC, or call Sartin at 660-827-0263.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.