The items collected so far by Andrea Fossum for her Penticton Wide School Donations Drive. Penticton Western News and Sprott Shaw College will be accepting donations for the drive until Sept. 4. Photo by Jordyn Thomson

Penticton woman running back-to-school supplies drive

The drive is collecting items for all school-age students in Penticton

A post-secondary student is trying to help all Penticton students get what they need for the upcoming school year.

Andrea Fossum, Penticton resident and current student at Sprott Shaw College Penticton Campus, is collecting school supplies items for her Penticton-Wide School Donations Drive.

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All items collected throughout the drive will be divvied up and distributed between all Penticton schools. Fossum said she felt motivated to start the charity drive after hearing about child poverty rates in B.C. during her schooling.

“About 20 per cent of children in B.C. are living in poverty, and I’m finding that many parents are struggling with the high cost of living. So even those who don’t quality as low-income are still facing challenges,” said Fossum. “When all of your income goes into rent and bills, there’s little left over for food or clothing or things like school supplies.”

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Fossum’s overarching goal is to help alleviate stress in children facing poverty or other issues that may be facing them, such as unstable housing.

She hopes by providing needed school supplies, children will be better equipped to succeed in their studies.

“It can really affect their school performance … they shouldn’t have to be worried about where they’re going to get their school supplies,” said Fossum.

Fossum started this charity endeavour on July 21 and admits she thought she’d receive more support. That being said, she’s still happy with what she’s been able to collect so far.

An active community member, Fossum also volunteers with the Girl Guides as a leader.

She is asking troops in the area to come together and show their support for this initiative since it aligns with the organization’s values.

“I would love for them to come and lend a hand, which is our motto, and see what they can do to contribute to this project,” said Fossum.

At the very least, Fossum hopes she’s setting a good example for both children and adults in the community. She noted that helping children succeed when they’re young can help break the poverty cycle as they go leave school and enter the work force.

“I think it’s really important to build strong communities with adults who care and can act as a social safety net for at-risk youth,” said Fossum. “I’d like to ask anyone in the community to step up and offer your time as a mentor in any capacity, whether that’s a team coach, Big Brother or Big Sister, Guiding or Scouting, or as a volunteer.”

While she is collecting supplies for all school-age children, Fossum stated that she’s already filled her elementary and middle school collection bins.

“What I’m really needing is high school supplies, I haven’t been able to get my hands on a high school supplies list. But what I’m hearing from kids is that they need things like paper, pens, highlighters, erasers, and those expensive calculators,” said Fossum.

Related: Nearly half of recently immigrated kids in B.C. are poor — report

At this time, Fossum doesn’t have the resources to help specific families or children, so instead she will be evenly distributing the items collected to all schools within Penticton. That way the items can be used by anyone within the school lacking supplies.

“I can’t say I’ve had more than $400 worth of supplies donated so far. And I have had parents contact me, asking to help them individually and it’s been a struggle. Unfortunately, I can’t offer individualized support this year because the donations just aren’t there,” said Fossum.

Those interested in donating cash or school items are welcome to do so at Sprott Shaw College Penticton Campus. The Penticton Western News (104-575 Main St.) will also be a drop-off point for school items during the duration of the charity drive.

Fossum stated that all cash donations are being used to purchase additional school supplies to add to the bins. She intends to wrap-up the drive Sept. 4 and drop off the items within the first day or two of school starting.

“I hope to run this next year and get more community support so I can offer individualized support for parents,” said Fossum.

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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter


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