By George Slaughter
Students attending Katy Independent School District Title 1 elementary schools will receive backpacks, school supplies, and other resources Saturday thanks to Compassion Katy’s third annual Operation Back 2 School program.
Opening ceremonies for the Operation Back 2 School distribution event are set for 7:45 a.m. Saturday at the Leonard E. Merrill Center, 6301 S. Stadium Lane. Actual distribution begins at 8 a.m. and continues until 6 p.m.
Supplies will be delivered to the Merrill Center Friday morning for the distribution event. Families will check in Saturday when they come to the Merrill Center, and volunteers will guide them through the lines to gather needed supplies.
Compassion Katy is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that works to connect local churches, businesses, and Katy area nonprofits. It partnered with the district to identify and help students at the district’s more economically damaged elementary schools.
Sue Hedtrick, Compassion Katy executive director, has described Operation Back 2 School as “organized chaos, filled with love.” It supports 17 KISD Title 1 elementary schools, approximately 7,000 students. That’s up from eight schools, approximately 3,000 students, last year.
In 2017, the program’s first year, the focus was on students at Sundown Elementary, 20100 Saums Rd. According to Compassion Katy, approximately 300 students were served that year.
According to the district, Title 1 is a supplemental program designed to provide instructional support to students who exhibit an academic need and to improve the educational program of the entire school. Congress established the program in 1965. KISD first received Title 1 funds in 1986.
Earlier this year, before the end of the 2018-19 school year, students at the 17 Title 1 elementary schools were invited to RSVP through their school counselors. Hedtrick said if a student has RSVP’d but fails to attend Saturday’s distribution event, Compassion Katy will deliver the supplies to that student’s particular school. She said if a student has not RSVP’d but needs help, the family is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
“I think the kids, when they leave the event on Saturday, they just feel that they have been outfitted to have a successful school and that their community loves them,” Hedtrick said. “That’s the message we’re trying to get across. We don’t know the harvest of the seeds we’re planting right now. In years to come they’ll look back on this and remember.”
Numerous partners, sponsors, and volunteers make the event happen. Partners include Attack Poverty, Ballard, House, Christ Clinic, Clothed by Faith, Hope Impacts, Katy Cares, Katy Christian Ministries, and the YMCA.
Sponsors include Alpha 4 Real, CBRE, Chick-fil-A, Christian Brothers Automotive, CJ’s Yardworks, Dream Movement, Function 45 Training, Grace Fellowship, Kingsland Baptist Church, Life After Bugs, LTY Engineers, Members Choice Credit Union, Office Depot, Office Max, Papa John’s, Pools Plus, Tobiou Sushi & Bar, and Whataburger.
Hedtrick said some sponsors don’t donate money, but have donated volunteers or have held school supply drives to support the event.
“Compassion Katy organizes this event, but the partners and churches and even individuals that sponsor the kids, along with the 500 volunteers, we couldn’t do it without all these people,” Hedtrick said. “So many of these businesses do so much for us. It’s quite a community event now.”
Volunteers have included officers from the KISD and City of Katy police departments, along with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. The Katy Fire Department also provided volunteers and parked some of its vehicles outside the Merrill Center for viewing.
Wednesday, August 14 is the first day of school for KISD students.