As a retired teacher, I understand what it’s like to have a student walk through the door with nothing; no paper, pencil, folder or fancy backpack. Starting the first week of school without supplies does not make for a bright beginning. Each year it seems the list of school supplies gets longer and more expensive. Some parents cannot provide everything their children need to achieve success; often times due to loss – loss of income, loss of health or even loss of a supporting spouse.

The Granbury ISD’s Vision Statement explains: “We believe partnerships between parents, students, teachers and the community are vital to the success of our school system.”

Therefore, when parents can’t meet the needs of their children, teachers often step up to the plate. For example, when I taught elementary school, I would purchase at least two sets of school supplies at the beginning of the school year for “my kids” who didn’t have what they needed. When I began to teach middle school, I kept notebook paper, folders, spirals, markers, glue, scissors, pens and pencils in my room for my students. Even still, when the needs are too great for parents and teachers, the community is called upon to ensure the success of our students.

Hood County is filled with generous people who care about kids. Operation School Supplies (OSS) was formed as a 501c3 nonprofit organization and began operating in 2001 in response to a growing number of requests for school supplies. The need was made aware through the Mission Granbury Emergency Assistance Network (EAN).

Micky Shearon, GISD School Board President, explains:

“The Federal Free & Reduced Lunch (FRL) percentage for GISD hovers between 48-52%. While there are some areas of Hood County where there are concentrations of children living in poverty situations, pockets of poverty all around the county feed into all GISD campuses. Annually, OSS provides school supplies to approximately 2,300-2,500 students, so they are serving 65 to 70% of the students in GISD who qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program. It takes right at $33,000 to $36,000 to fully fund the OSS annual budget. Aside from the $12,000 United Way allocation we have coming this year, we will need to raise 100% of the remainder, or  approximately $21,000 to $24,000 this spring and summer.”

Many organizations in Hood County work to meet increasing needs of our community, which translates into various fundraisers. “We know our local businesses are especially called upon repeatedly to support various worthy causes. OSS tries not to add to that burden, so we generally have one donor request letter that goes out to our list of individual donors each spring. To supplement what we raise from our donor letter, we also do some other very low-key fundraising efforts, such as our Pay Pal button on our social media pages,” Micky says.

Occasionally, individual campuses throughout GISD sponsor some sort of fundraising or school supply drive. For instance, last year Brawner Intermediate held a coin drive and raised $303.36 to help with OSS.

Since its inception, OSS has worked to build a high level of trust with the clients. To qualify for OSS, parents or guardians have a simple, non-threatening, one-page form to fill out. Eligibility is based upon the student’s entitlement in FRL and other criteria such as WIC, Medicaid/Medicare, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), etc.

In addition to school supplies, OSS helps kids have the opportunity for an appointment on site with hairstylists and barbers donating their time and talents. Micky said, “The OSS Resource Fair… allows our families to have easy access to essentially all of the programs and services offered to their children and/or families by just about every agency, organization and church in the county.

“Last year, we had nearly sixty vendors set up at our OSS Resource Fair including Mission Granbury, Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, CWJC, and Habitat for Humanity. Most of the vendors have some free give-a-ways. They get people signed up for programs they offer and hand out information. Free school immunizations, free vision screenings, and free sports physicals were also provided during the Resource Fair. Last year was our first year to have our school supply distribution and resource fair at the Lakeside Baptist Church facility, and we are scheduled to be there again this year on Thursday, August 11th.”

Micky went on to explain, “The value of our OSS Resource Fair cannot be overstated. By requiring that the parents/guardians come to pick up the school supplies on distribution day, we can be very intentional and deliberate about routing our families through the Resource Fair as part of the process. The information that they receive on programs and services that are available to their children and families is invaluable. On top of that, we always go to great lengths to make sure that it’s a fun and pleasant experience for both the parents and the kids! Last year was our first year to have our school supply distribution and resource fair at Lakeside Baptist Church. Prior to that, we were at the Granbury Resort Conference Center and were immediately too large for that facility. Prior to that, we were housed at various locations around the GISD Administrative complex from 2001-2013.”

OSS doesn’t just meet the needs of students at the beginning school. Each campus has a liaison, usually a school nurse or counselor, that helps set up a supply closet with items students may need throughout the year. They can contact OSS when their supply closet needs replenished. Micky said, “This helps to prevent teachers from feeling like they need to go out and spend money out of their own pockets, which we all know they do, on school supplies their kids need.”

Financial donations are preferred to insure the supplies comply with the official lists issued by the district. Micky states, “Basically, $25.00 will completely outfit one child with a complete set of school supplies and a string pack. If we could get 1000 individuals to all send just $25.00 each, we would be able to fully fund our program for the year.”

Donations can be made by mailing a check made payable to “Operation School Supplies” to P.O. Box 2403, Granbury, TX 76048, or online through our Pay Pal account on our GISD webpage at www.granburyisd.org/Page/726. All donations are tax deductible.