Shawnee nonprofit running school supply drive for Nieman, Shawanoe elementary schools

Teresa McGarry, founder of Moneytalk Financial Foundations, is running a school supply drive for students at Nieman and Shawanoe elementary schools. She hopes to raise $50,000 before this fall.

A Shawnee-based nonprofit is raising funds for a school supplies drive to support students this fall at Nieman and Shawanoe elementary schools.

Moneytalk Financial Foundations is trying to raise $50,000 for the two elementary schools by mid-July. So far, it has raised $1,100. The two schools have roughly 1,000 students combined, which allows about $50 of supplies for each student.

The fundraising effort is part of the nonprofit organization’s initiative alongside Caring for Kids KC to ensure the students have the school supplies they need to start the school year, regardless of what the school year will look like because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shawanoe Elementary has a larger concentration of students living at or below the federal poverty level, qualifying it for Title 1 funding.

Both of the elementary schools are Title 1 schools, since they have larger concentrations of students living at or below the federal poverty level. Teresa McGarry, founder and executive director of MoneyTalk Financial Foundations, said the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdowns have put even more stress on the families of these students.

Nancy Miller, a grandparent with a student at Nieman, said she and her husband, Stephen, adopted three grandchildren and have four other grandchildren at home.

“It’s very hard for us because we’re on a fixed income,” Miller said, noting that she and her husband decided against buying diabetes medication so they can care for the grandchildren first. “We only get so much, so for us to buy clothes and school supplies and cover our medical bills, you just never know where our next meal is going to come from. We’re just struggling. It would just be amazing if we could at least get the school supplies, that would free up the money for something else.”

McGarry said administrators have shared concerns with her about families struggling to cover school-related expenses.

“The staff and principals have mentioned concerns about how normally, they have a hard time with families being able to afford the kids’ school supplies anyway,” McGarry said, citing financial hardships by families who can’t pay for things like school shirts that make their students feel included at school.

McGarry said school administrators also shared concerns that, once restrictions on evicting tenants are lifted, then families who are still financially strapped through unemployment or reduced wages may become homeless.

Teachers at Nieman and Shawanoe elementary schools will be able to use leftover funds from the drive for classroom supplies.

“There’s no way they’re going to be able to afford school supplies,” she added. “We would like to gift these families with school supplies for their children, and then the money that they would have spent on buying supplies, they can put towards rent, utilities, groceries, shoes, clothes, those kinds of things.”

If the nonprofit exceeds its goal, then McGarry plans to use leftover funds to help students with meals on the weekends and also support for teachers’ supplies in the classroom. In the event of remote learning similar to what the Shawnee Mission School District had this spring, then the school supply list will look different based on what teachers need to continue education.

“We have a plan to make sure it all goes to them somehow, in whatever way they need it, and in a priority list of how that will be applied,” McGarry said.

Monetary donations allow the nonprofit to purchase supplies in bulk, she added.