Kelley is a teacher from Inkster, and for her, driving over an hour to Operation: Kid Equip’s (OKE) Teacher’s Annex in Troy is well worth the trip.
Most of the kids in her first grade classroom come from families that qualify for free or reduced school lunches, which usually means that the family cannot provide school supplies for the kids either. Many of her students cry on half days because the students know they won’t be getting their lunch, which is often their last meal of the day.
So she, like more than 500 other teachers, takes it upon herself to make sure items like healthy snacks are provided and needed school supplies are in her classroom. When she first heard that OKE would provide those resources to teachers at no charge, she couldn’t believe it.
“A co-worker mentioned OKE to me at a wedding and I was in complete disbelief at first,” she recalled. “I kept saying, ‘No. That can’t be possible.’’
But, like what many call impossible in this town, it is possible and it is happening.
Now that OKE has been approved as an affiliate of the Kids In Need Foundation (KINF), which helps supply a national network of free teacher resource centers, even more resources will be coming for teachers like Kelley. Membership in KINF’s network enables OKE to participate in available product distributions from corporate donors.
Even though OKE will continue to operate independently, being part of a larger group offers an opportunity to network, share best practices and increase group purchasing power.
“Operation: Kid Equip is an asset to our National Network of Resource Centers, aligning well with our mission to provide free school supplies to students most in need,” said David Smith, Executive Director of KINF. “We congratulate them for their good work and welcome them as a partner.”
OKE currently serves 38,000 children across 90 schools in Macomb, Oakland and parts of Wayne County. They work with schools where 70% or more of the students are eligible for the free/reduced-price lunch program, and the need for their services is increasing.
“All things considered, we’re finding that for some families, basic school supplies have become like luxury purchases compared to the ongoing struggle to provide for the family’s food and other bare necessities. Our schools are also going through their own financial struggles in this economy. Each is turning to the other to enhance the education of our local students,” said Michael (Menachem) Kniespeck, OKE’s founder and director.
During the first two months of this school year, OKE provided over $220,000 worth of supplies to approximately 500 teachers. Since teachers from public schools cannot require families to provide school supplies, teachers turn to OKE to ensure their students have the things they need to succeed in the classroom.
“Our kids do not lack the desire, motivation or capability to succeed. Many simply lack sufficient supplies. We’re passionate about making futures happen,” Kniespeck professed.
Note: Detroit Public Schools are currently served by another school-supply resource provider.