Guest Column: Pencils in the Park a success; Tools for School donations still needed

By Angela Harris

Director of Business Development, Life Center

In 2004, Life Center became aware of a citywide problem so many of us take for granted. Students were being sent to school expected to excel without the proper tools and supplies necessary for learning. Life Center determined it was time to take a stand and “Equip our Kids for Success” by providing under-privileged students with backpacks filled with the school supplies necessary to begin the new school year with confidence and hope.

In 2008, Life Center’s “Tools for School” drive continued to grow and to gain momentum. Life Center was able to impact the lives of approximately 1,500 students by providing them with backpacks stuffed with school supplies!

Today, Life Center’s “Tools for School” has reached its fifth year. Recognizing the increased need as the result of the recession and our down economy, Life Center turned to the community to support its mission to “Equip our Kids for Success.”

With a collaborative effort among State Rep. Chuck Jefferson (D-Rockford), Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R), Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I), and Ald. Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7), the City of Rockford, (Human Services, Fire and Police departments) Rockford Park District, On the Waterfront, Winnebago County Health Department, Ellis Heights Weed & Seed Program, Life Church, Faith Center, Neighborhood Network, The Literacy Council, CoCo Key Water Resort, Alpine Bank, and Kelly’s Market Mobil stations, WE were able to impact the lives of 5,000 students.

With this newly-formed unity, we wanted to not only give these students a backpack, but also provide a memorable festival-type day it is hoped they would never forget. We decided to name the event “Pencils in the Park.” We wanted to encourage and educate students to utilize many of the resources available in this great city. We offered information about many of our city’s organizations, including Rockford Public Library, after learning most students do not have a library card and are unaware of what the library offers.

Winnebago County Health Department offered vision and dental screenings to children and made recommendations to the parents if their child(ren) should be seen by an optometrist or dentist prior to the first day of school.

Fire safety information was offered using the “Fire House,” a K-9 demonstration was given by the Merchant Police, musical entertainment was provided, and encouraging words were heard from Jefferson, Christiansen and Morrissey.

In addition, face-painting, clowns, balloons, hot dogs, chips, popcorn, cotton candy and ice-cold drinks were enjoyed by all. And finally, the highlight of the day, the DISTRIBUTION OF BACKPACKS!

We received praise and heartfelt thanks from very grateful parents. Their response to our efforts was overwhelmingly favorable in making “Pencils in the Park” a memorable and unforgettable day!

To continue making a difference, Life Center is seeking additional support from our community. Getting involved and changing a child’s life by merely providing a backpack and school supplies is something most of us can do. A simple $10 donation makes this happen for one child!

Although “Tools for School” 2009 is over, we have already begun to prepare for the 2010 school year. Monetary donations are accepted throughout the year. Checks can be made out to Tools for School and sent to the Life Center Office at 921 W. State St., Rockford, IL 61102. We would like to increase our goal significantly next year, and your support is absolutely necessary and greatly appreciated!

If you are a business owner and would like to sell Backpack Bucks to your clients for $1 each or would just simply like to partner with us to support “Tools for School,” please contact me at (815) 964-4966.

Our plan is to make the “2010 Tools for School” and “Pencils in the Park” the most talked-about and memorable events this city has ever seen! Please do your part and help support our efforts to: “Equip our Kids for Success.”

Life Center would like to give an extra-special thank-you to our supporters and sponsors: Jefferson, Christiansen, Morrissey and Thompson-Kelly; City of Rockford (Human Services, Fire and Police departments); Rockford Park District; On the Waterfront; Winnebago County Health Department; Ellis Heights Weed & Seed Division; Life Church; Faith Center Church; Neighborhood Network; The Literacy Council; CoCo Key Water Resort; Alpine Bank; AMCORE Bank; Associated Bank; Riverside Community Bank; Rock Valley Credit Union; William Charles, Ltd.; Pepsi; Kelley Williamson Mobil stations; Jim Black and Associates; T-Shirtz Etc.; Wal-Mart; Heartland Community Church; Dolphin Swim Club; Chem Processing; Kmart; UDL Labrotories; the Boy Scout office; dozens of local churches; and EVERYONE else who made this community-driven project a huge success!

Angela Harris is director of Business Development for Life Center.

from the Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2009 issue

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