DHS helps out needy families
Updated 3:25 pm, Friday, September 2, 2016
WESTPORT — Over 100 Westport Public School income-eligible families have been equipped with the necessary supplies for the 2016-17 academic year, thanks to the back-to-school program run by the Department of Human Services.
The program provided students with two gift cards: one that allowed kids to purchase new school shoes at Payless ShoeSource, which was funded through a Salvation Army grant, and a second — through local donations — for school supplies at places like Staples and Walmart.
“We get donations from residents, churches, groups here in town,” said Human Services Director Sarah Heath. “They give us donations, and they’re either the actual gift card or they’re cash donations and we purchase the gift cards.”
“We also get donations of actual school supplies, and we do give those out. But we find that the families like being able to do the back-to-school shopping with their children themselves, which is why the gift card is nice,” Heath said.
Information for families
Tax-deductible monetary donations made payable to “Town of Westport/DHS Family Programs” (memo: Back to School) may be mailed to Department of Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, CT 06880. Gift cards of any amount to Staples, Target, Walmart, Old Navy, etc. are appreciated as well and may be dropped off Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Room 200 at Westport Town Hall.
Families who feel they may qualify for this program are urged to contact the Department of Human Services at 203-341-1050.
Many families signed up almost immediately for the program, and Heath attributes the program’s success to the community’s involvement.
“We get a lot of parents who are surprised to be getting the gift cards, and that’s from generosity from the Salvation Army and from Westport residents, who are extremely generous,” Heath said. “And that’s the only reason we are able to do this. There are a lot of towns that just give a backpack and paper or pens and pencils, but this program has grown every year and developed so that we’re able to offer each family those two gift cards.”
Because there is no free or reduced lunch at most summer camps, many families living paycheck to paycheck find themselves financially strapped when it comes time to start school.
“They are able to go to Payless and get a pair of shoes. Not having to worry about where the funds are coming from, for back to school, I think, is very helpful,” Heath said.