Tools for Schools kicks of for school year 2023-2024

Although summer vacations are less than halfway over for the Okaloosa and Walton school students, the Niceville-based Sharing & Caring food bank has launched its annual Tools for Schools drive.

Tools for Schools benefits children of the Sharing & Caring clients within the Valparaiso, Niceville area and east to Choctaw Beach in Walton County. Donations to the drive, financial or actual supplies, come from the community.

โ€œWeโ€™re the only organization in the area that does that,โ€ said Sharing & Caring President Jim Rollins. Rollins has volunteered with Sharing and Caring for eight years.

The Tools for Schools program has been an annual event for several years, as Sharing & Caring works directly with each school to determine supply needs.

โ€œWe cover 15 schools, encompassing 63 grades and roughly 95 different items,โ€ Rollins said. โ€œSome schools will want Ticonderoga (brand) pencils; others will want yellow only.ย 

Some schools specify red composition books.
a man holding folders
Sharing N Caring President Jim Rollins shows some of the supplies students will need for the next school year.
โ€œWe have a list of basic supplies like notebook paper–wide rule and college rule, Fiskars scissors, crayons, glue sticks,โ€ he continued. โ€œWe try to focus on the basic things that we need, that all the schools use.โ€

Lists of desired items are found on the Sharing & Caring website, and Rollins said he encourages donors to stick with the list to ensure students will use the items. Each school and grade has a specific list of basic supplies.

Donations can take items to Sharing & Caring; stay in your car and call the number posted outside the building. A volunteer will come out to accept donations.

โ€œWe donโ€™t want people leaving them outside,โ€ Rollins said. โ€œYou put crayons out there in the heat, you end up with one big [crayon].โ€
Donations can come from individuals, organizations, businesses, and churches. The Elks Lodge, No. 2747, Valparaiso, has donated backpacks for each child.

โ€œWe also give each child a $25 gift card to Walmart to help with new clothes or other items they might need to start the year off right. Last year, St. Paulโ€™s Lutheran Church members provided each child with a $25 gift card from the SHOE DEPT. Store,โ€ Rollins said. โ€œIt truly is a community effort.

The recipients of the supplies are children of registered Sharing & Caring clients who fall into the lower income/workforce financial categories.
Sharing & Caring uses the United Wayโ€™s ALICE determinate–assisted limited, income constrained, employed–precisely calculated for Okaloosa County.

This year, Tools for Schools will benefit about 150 students. Any extra donations get divided among the schools.

โ€œItโ€™s the kids that are more important,โ€ Rollins added.

Sharing & Caring is an all-volunteer organization assisting people within the Valparaiso/Niceville area and east to Choctaw Beach in Walton County.

To see the donation list, visit their website.

To deliver donations, visit Sharing & Caring of Okaloosa County Inc.,

Niceville Center, 104 Bullock Blvd, Niceville. Sharing & Caring business hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to noon, Fridays.

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