RIO — Not one student in the Rio Community School District needs to purchase materials for the upcoming school year thanks to a supply drive that’s exceeding expectations and filling school storage rooms to near capacity.
Filling Backpacks campaign coordinator Andrea Becker announced this week the drive is expected to reach or exceed its goal of collecting or purchasing $6,000 worth of materials before the first day of school Sept. 4. Rio Community Event Fund launched the annual supply drive in 2016 to provide materials for families in need, but it has grown to the point where Becker sees it providing for all of the district’s approximately 380 students.
“We jokingly say that it takes a village to raise a child because Rio is such a small village,” Becker said. “But here we truly feel like we’re giving them the tools to succeed and we’re demonstrating that people do care about them.”
The biggest donations so far include $1,000 from the Arlington Lions Club and piles of supplies from Faith Bible Church in Rio, Becker said. School staff members and administrators also have contributed to the drive, which is ongoing since Becker and the others hope to store extra supplies for 2019-20. Right now Filling Backpacks seeks only monetary donations, aside from Clorox Wipes and Kleenex, Becker said.
“It exploded,” Rio Superintendent Craig Vetter said of the drive that filled storage rooms in both the elementary and middle/high schools. “What’s neat about this initiative is that it’s not driven by administration at the school. It’s people in the community coming up with ideas on their own.”
Materials collected or purchased so far include 3,000 notebooks, along with hundreds of pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, crayons, colored pencils, folders, scientific calculators and more, Becker said. Rio Community Event Fund is requesting parents let school staff know during registration Wednesday whether they need a backpack for their child.
Supplies will be available for pickup Wednesday during school registration. Any materials that are not yet available will be distributed at a later date, Becker said.
The drive coincides with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue’s sales tax holiday for school supplies, which started Wednesday and concludes Sunday. The temporary exemption period applies to school supplies priced $75 or less, as well as clothing priced $75 or less, school computer supplies priced at $250 or less and computers for consumers priced $750 or less, as well as some other items.
One of the benefits of Rio’s annual supply drive is the opportunity to save money through bulk purchasing, said Becker, who was born and raised in Rio and works at DMB Community Bank in DeForest. Another benefit, she said, is how it addresses economically disadvantaged students in the district.
“I don’t think it’s fair that any one single child feels any differently than another one,” Becker said of why she became involved in the supply drive in 2016. “If I can help even the playing field for all of these kids, I think that’s just the right thing to do.”