PORTAGE COUNTY (WAOW) -- Another school year is right around the corner. That means students are stocking up on school supplies. But, it can get expensive. That's why one local program is coming together, to give back.
Christine Richter knows the importance of giving back. For 12 years, Richter has been a volunteer at Project Fresh Start. It's a Portage County program aimed at helping low income families get the school supplies they need.
"There are a lot of families who really can't afford it,” said Richter.
She knows that all too well. Richter and her daughter also benefit from the program.
“I have a 14-year-old daughter and we benefit from it so this is how we give back,” explained Richter. “It's really a huge help, financially."
That's true for more than 1,000 Portage County families.
“It's all about providing low income families or families who need a little bit of help school supplies for a fresh start to the school year, free of charge,” said Volunteer Center Director Kayla Rombalski.
The program works like this; families who qualify for free or reduced lunch get to sign up for school supplies. Then, they come in, pick them up, grab a backpack and are on their way.
“It's a huge expense and it all happens at once so this is our way to providing school supplies to those families to lessen the burden,” said Rombalski.
The need is growing. In 2011, organizers say they served just under 900 families. Now, they're up to 1,300.
"Families will say say this is piece of mind, this allows me to put food on the table,” said Rombalski, “It allows my kid to go back to school not feeling different from the rest."
Because these aren't just school supplies, they're a fresh start to a new year.
"It helps my daughter feel ready,” added Richter.
Families were also able to get 10 items of clothing. Items ranged from jeans to dresses. More than 200 volunteers helped collect all the supplies last week.