By TIM ROWDEN
Ensuring St. Louis public school children have the supplies they need to start the year off right, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) through its PATCH (Painters and Allied Trades for Children’s Hope Foundation) fund in conjunction with District Council 2 recently donated 659 fully loaded backpacks to needy children at Ashland and Hickey elementary schools.
“Our main goal is to give a Class “A” backpack and supplies to these kids, making sure that they have every item that the school requires,” Rich Lucks, director of business development for District Council 2 said. “The unions came from the community, this is an opportunity for us to give back where we all originated at one time or another.”
A COMMUNITY EFFORT
More than 40 volunteers including painters, contractors and community volunteers turned out at the District 2 hall on 59th Street to load up the backpacks for kindergarten through sixth grade students.
Schnucks provided meat for a barbecue lunch for the volunteers; Delta Dental provided 659 toothbrushes and toothpaste for the backpacks; and Shillington Box donated 40 large boxes for the supplies.
Among the volunteers were representatives from painting contractors RDB Universal and CCR Inc., representatives from the African-American Business and Contractors Association, the Alliance of Parents and Children for Educational Empowerment, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and Aldermen Sam Moore, Ward 4, and Antonio French, Ward 21.
STARTING SCHOOL PREPARED
“It gets all the kids starting off on the right foot that first day of school,” French, whose 21st Ward includes Ashland Elementary, said of the Painters’ effort. “It will go a long way, hopefully, toward the kids success throughout the school year.”
The backpacks were delivered to the schools on Aug. 9, so they would be waiting for the students when they reported to the first day of classes on Aug. 12.
‘HUMBLED BY THE GENEROSITY’
“I really am just humbled by the generosity and magnitude of it,” Peggy Starks, principal at Hickey Elementary said. “We haven’t really had a lot of people breaking down the door to donate to this school. This is the most generous that any organization has been for us.”
Starks and her staff see Hickey as an oasis for their students, many of whom come from tough economic backgrounds, are homeless, living with relatives or being raised by grandparents on fixed incomes.
“Our needs are broad,” Starks said, noting that some students don’t even have basic items such as clothing or appropriate shoes to wear, and many need coats, hats and gloves in the winter. “It’s such a big deal for the kids to have the supplies and backpacks so everybody has the same opportunity and the same start in school.”
Founded in 2001, the PATCH Foundation to date has given more than $1 million to youth organizations throughout the United States and Canada.
Money raised locally by IUPAT members goes back to their own communities.