WHITINGHAM -- As a retired teacher, Mary Lou LaPlante knows there is a real need out there for school supplies.
"This year, thanks to the churches, organizations and businesses in the area, plus individual anonymous donors, we were able to give school supplies to the school children in our community," she said.
The school supplies are being provided to children from pre-k up to high school in Wilmington and Whitingham. Students in need sent letters to LaPlante’s group after finding out what was required for the upcoming school year.
There were 100 binders in total that went out to students this year. One group of 46 children in grades six and up received complete binder packages and 21 pre-schoolers will receive their appropriate binder packages.
LaPlante and the co-chair of the program, Fawn Craft, work with volunteers from Jacksonville Community Church and Wilmington Baptist Church to raise funds then purchase school supplies.
This year, LaPlante received the letters from Wilmington and Whitingham schools after contacting school officials. The letters were the same ones that the students receive before school starts, which notify the children of what supplies will be required for the year.
"In the past, I was just putting together what I thought the school needed, but this year I got more organized," said LaPlante.
She told the Reformer that she had seen an increase in volunteers this year.
"It was a plan that came together and I love it when a plan comes together," she said. "It’s the community working together to help the children in need."
Some of the local entities that assist with the project include Catamount Environmental Inc., Our Lady of Fatima Church Ladies Guild and Sawyer Bentwood Inc.
"The lord said that there’s always going to be people in need and we’re going to have to service them," said LaPlante.
Her husband, Pastor Doug LaPlante believes members from the congregation and other volunteers have assisted with this project for over five years now.
When asked about what makes the project so successful each year, LaPlante cited the need getting greater and greater.
"More people know that we do it," she said. "Neighbors tell the children in need and the word gets back to us."
Starting right after that project is completed, the church groups begin to participate in "Operation Christmas Child" next.
The goal is to make up 50 individual Christmas gift boxes, which are the size of shoe boxes and include items such as soap, face wash, a small stuffed animal and school supplies.
"It’s really a unique little box," said LaPlante.
This initiative reaches children throughout the United States as well as other impoverished areas of the world.
The churches give a blessing to all who receive the gift boxes. The boxes are then shipped in November.
There was one local volunteer who traveled along with the boxes and handed one to a child in a poverty-stricken area of a foreign country.
"She said, ‘What a delight that was,’" LaPlante told the Reformer.
To volunteer in either project, contact either church or Pastor Doug LaPlante.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.