Hundreds of back packs show a community that cares.

Wendy Farrell and volunteers Patricia Orner, Tim Weisheyer, and Mary Guidone marvel at the huge number of school supplies donated by the community.

POINCIANA — Wendy Farrell can remember when her kids were a bit younger, and there was an almost constant need to replace their school supplies.
“When my kids were little, they went through a box of crayons a week, because they break them and chew on them,” she laughed.
Every parent knows that when the school semester begins in August, it means taking their kids shopping to purchase a long list of things the youngsters need to learn, including back packs, notebooks, pens and pencils, and so on.
The challenge, of course, is that not every parent in these tough economic times can afford those supplies – even if they’re crucial to the child’s learning experience, Farrell added.
“Everybody is having a tough time,” she said. “I like to say if we all give a little, that adds up to a lot. If we all give a little bit, great things happen.”
Farrell felt exactly that way on Monday, as she marveled at the items inside the Poinciana Community Center – including 1,045 back packs ready to be shipped off to Poinciana’s schools.
“I’ve been doing this since 2006,” Farrell said. “I’ve taken small donations, large donations, and it makes a huge difference to our kids. It shows people care.”
Farrell is a small business owner in Poinciana, and the chairman of the Poinciana Area Council, a group of business owners in the community of 84,000 residents who meet once a month. For the past six years, PAC has organized collection drives for school supplies, to help the schools, parents and in particular the kids in the community.
Each year, Farrell said, the community responds, and gives a little bit more – and more.
“I never start off with the expectation that I want X-amount of donations,” Farrell said. “I always hope to do better than the year before. This year I knew I’d have more than last year.”
On Monday, Farrell and other volunteers met at the Community Center to pack up the supplies in boxes so they could be delivered to local schools.
“We managed to get everything sorted out and boxed up,” she said. “It was amazing. We managed to give all 14 schools in the Poinciana area some school supplies. This community never ceases to amaze me. I ask, and they give. It’s something that the area council does every year that just seems to get bigger and better. This year we had three tables stacked high with paper and notebooks.”
Although the supply drive was a success, the need for it highlights the continuing struggles that local schools, and families, are facing as the region works to shake off the impact of the national recession and the collapse of the housing market.
“For some people, it’s hard enough putting food on the table without having to worry about buying school supplies for little Johnny,” Farrell said. “We realize not everyone can provide them.”
In some instances, teachers at the local schools end up buying school supplies themselves, Farrell said, which is why PAC has stepped in to help.
By relieving the schools of this pressure, she said, “It allows the money to be put into technology in the schools, or money to pay teachers.”

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