Helping Students in Need Start School Year Off Right

helping students in needPens and paper, pencils and erasers, highlighters and three-ring binders - all needed school supplies that aren't as easy for some families to supply school children. The Wake County non-profit group, Friends of the Guardian ad Litem Program, has for more than a decade been coordinating the Back to School with Pride Project to help "set each child up for success and have them feel a sense of pride on their first day of school."

Martin & Jones has been participating in the project since 2007, and most of that time under the leadership and coordination of Wendy Kriebel. Wendy has worked with Martin & Jones for 17 years as a Claims Administrator in the firm's asbestos claims practice area. This year, Wendy collected enough donations to fill 45 backpacks for high school students with items suggested by Wake County Schools.

"Wendy rocks for her initiative, big heart, and incredible organization right down to the detail of including a personal note and word of encouragement on a card with each backpack," emphasized Kim Hill, the Firm Administrator.

Wendy explained the backpacks collected will be delivered to children identified by Social Workers with Wake County Human Services as well as Guardian ad Litem referred children. The recipients are primarily children living in "kinship care" placements, children who are placed with relatives (mostly grandparents) to keep them from going into foster homes. Relatives do not receive board payments or other support services that licensed foster parents receive. Most work full time but struggle to provide the basic needs and very rarely have extra funds available for new school clothes or school supplies that lots of children take for granted.

When asked why she takes on this project for Martin & Jones year after year, her answer seemed easy. "This project of providing backpacks to help The Friends of the Wake County GAL is important to me, not only because my background/degree is in education and I have several friends who are teachers, but mostly because I remember the excitement I felt on the first day of the new school year," she said. "My Mom would take a picture of us in our favorite new outfit and new backpack while we waited for our bus to pick us up and take us to school. When I was growing up, school supplies were provided by the school. We only shopped for a few new school clothes and backpack. Nowadays, with more budget cuts and financial hardships, it is important to me to help this fantastic organization, which is run entirely by volunteers, to help meet their goal of sending deserving kids back to school with pride, ensuring as many kids as possible have the necessary supplies to start their school year off on the right foot, which in turn gets them excited about learning and potentially having a brighter future."