The office of State Rep. Ron Reynolds and the American Caribbean Chamber of Commerce (ACCC) partnered to host a curbside school supplies drive for area residents Friday outside Reynolds’ District 27 office in Missouri City as many local families brace for the start of an unprecedented school year and the prospect of virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Saturday, the Aga Khan Council for the Southwest United States hosted its own school supply drive at the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center in Sugar Land. Officials in both cities said they recognized the need to provide support during a difficult transition period for many.
“We’re so grateful for all the community volunteers,” Reynolds said. “People are struggling — with COVID-19, record unemployment, families having to stretch dollars. The $600 that’s been cut from their enhanced unemployment weekly benefits, that’s gone. So families have less money and disposable income, and so we’re here to stretch it. We’re here to help people with groceries, with necessities to help them during this tough time.”
In Sugar Land, a collaborative drive-through event between i-CERV, the Fort Bend Interfaith Community and Fort Bend ISD began to collect needed school supplies for FBISD’s students and their families as they prepare for their first day of school (virtually) on Aug. 17.
“The Ismaili Center has always stepped forward to help the residents of Fort Bend County (with drives like this),” Sugar Land city council member Jennifer Lane said.
“The overall goal is to get back in school (as soon as possible). “School supplies are definitely going to be needed, and kids love to have those things. It gets them excited about going back to school, and it’s important to have other things on hand other than just technology.”
All items collected during the drive will be donated to FBISD’s Collaborative Communities Department and Shared Dreams program. FBISD’s Shared Dreams program provides short-term assistance – toiletries, clothes, etc. – to registered FBISD students whose needs have been determined by their campus nurse with assistance from campus staff. The Collaborative Communities program works with the community on partnerships for the benefit of the district’s students.
In Missouri City, the ACCC and Reynolds’ office also provided masks and gloves and haircut vouchers to drive-up recipients. The line to enter the parking lot off of Texas Parkway was backed up several blocks, and filled with dozens of cars ahead of them waiting in the lot with trunks open for volunteers to load supplies. Approximately 6,000 people attended the event, and there were 35 volunteers.
“They were in line when we came here at (8 a.m.), they were here at (7 a.m.),” Reynolds said. “So many people have been waiting for hours. And we started on time, but many people have been waiting since 8 a.m. “We’re just doing our part to help give back,” Reynolds added.
“I believe that to whom much is given, much is required, and as state representative, even though this is a part of my legislative responsibility, as a public servant, this is what I should be doing during this time.”
Reynolds encouraged constituents to continue utilizing the free COVID-19 testing site at Christ Temple of Deliverance Church, which opened Monday and runs through Saturday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
Also on Friday, Fort Bend County Judge KP George and other county officials held a PPE giveaway at the Fort Bend County Fairgrounds in Rosenberg.
Constance Jones, director of outreach at ACCC and state officer of the Texas Coalition Black Caucus, said co-sponsorship will be crucial for future community events designed to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Among them will be a curbside health fair at a to-be-determined Houston Community College campus.
Jones said she was impressed by both the volunteer and constituent turnout on a workday. It was the only day the Houston Food Bank, which has distribution partnerships with several local food pantries in Fort Bend County and the entire Greater Houston area, was available.
“We’re not complaining, we’re very thankful,” Jones said. “We need some more manpower, and they’re coming aboard.”
Anthony Indelicato, FBISD’s Chief of Staff and Collaborative Communities, said Sugar Land has also collaborated with the Houston Food Bank.
“We make sure that we kind of fill in the gaps for things they need – whether it be toiletries, food or other things,” Indelicato said. “In spring during the pandemic we partnered with the Houston Food Bank, and that’s been really helpful for a lot of our families. This drive could help out hundreds, if not thousands of families.”
RJ Baptiste, the president of the ACCC, seconded Jones’ and Indelicato’s comments on the significance of sponsorship and support from local businesses and service organizations in their respective communities.
“We won’t sleep,” Baptiste said. “We won’t sleep until our community is taken care of.”