Combined Community Services Case Manager for Project Independence and the program Hand Up Ami Pitt (L) and CCS Volunteer Coordinator Lacey Alber (R) hold up some of the school supplies that will be given out to Kosciusko County students at this year’s Tools For School Aug. 5. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Combined Community Services Case Manager for Project Independence and the program Hand Up Ami Pitt (L) and CCS Volunteer Coordinator Lacey Alber (R) hold up some of the school supplies that will be given out to Kosciusko County students at this year’s Tools For School Aug. 5. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Three-ring binders, notebooks, scissors, glue, crayons, pencils – supplies children will need in a month when school starts for the 2021-22 academic year.

To help Kosciusko County students get started on the right foot, and to help parents who might struggle with paying for it all, Combined Community Services’ Tools For School returns to the Kosciusko Fairgrounds Home & Family Arts building, 1400 E. Smith St., Warsaw, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 5.

“A change this year is that it’s not on a Wednesday. We’ve always had it on a Wednesday, and this year it’s on a Thursday,” said Ami Pitt, case manager for Project Independence and the program Hand Up. “The Fairgrounds needed us to make that switch, and they’ve donated that building for 26 years, so we gladly (switched days).”

In 2020, Tools For School was drive-thru. This year, it’s back to “normal,” which Pitt said they excited about.

She said, “They’ll come to the Fairgrounds and park out in the main parking lot. The path is clearly marked, so they’ll walk through – if at all possible, if there’s a handicapped situation they’re more than welcome to drive back – and enter the south end of the Home & Family Arts building. We do a short intake.”

No documentation will be required at the intake. What CCS will need to know, the parents/guardians should be able to verbally provide.

“They just have to be a Kosciusko County student. That’s the main thing,” said Lacey Alber, CCS volunteer coordinator.

Pitt said after the short intake, students will be given the school supplies according to grade. The kids and their parents then go to the community room where children can get haircuts from Cost Cutters (formerly Fiesta) and there will be about 15 tables of community information.

“It’s like a fun fair atmosphere. Maybe agencies that they’ve never heard of, such as Healthy Families, Ivy Tech will be represented, BrightPoint” and others, Pitt said.

Alber said, in the past, there have been eye doctors and dentists.

“Community resources giving out their information,” Pitt said.

Pathway Church will have games for kids to play, as well as popsicles.

“A new thing that was added last year, during the drive-thru, Warsaw School System sent their main office and they enrolled kids in line, and they’ll be coming again this year,” Pitt stated. She also will be reaching out to Wawasee, Tippecanoe Valley and Whitko schools.

“It was nice to have them come and enroll the students because they got to see the students, but they also, I think, got a fresh perspective on the need in our county,” Alber said.

DARE officers and firefighters will be on hand to meet and gree the kids.

Warsaw Community School Food & Nutrition Services will provide children with free breakfast by 7:30 or 8 a.m. Aug. 5.

Pitt said they usually provide supplies for about 1,200 kids during Tools For School. The “biggest” supporters are Meijer and Staples, as well as the Fairgrounds for the building donation.

Supplies for students in kindergarten to 12th grade can be donated up until they’re being distributed. Monetary donations can be stretched a little further because CCS is a tax-exempt nonprofit and the stores CCS works with gives them “really good deals,” Pitt said. Donations can be dropped off at CCS through the pantry line, and monetary donations (earmarked “Tools for School”) also can be mailed to CCS.

CCS is open Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon. The lobby is still closed, but donors can pull to the sidewalk by the food pantry to drop off their donations.

Donations accepted include three-ring binders, wide and college rule notebooks, scissors pointed and rounded, glue/glue sticks, USB flash drives, crayons, pencils, erasers, blue and black pens, two-pocket folders and rulers. The full list is on CCSGives.com.

If a family should miss or be unable to attend the Aug. 5 Tools For School, Alber said, “We’ll have supplies here that we can still give out. They’ll just be pre-bagged.”

For more information, contact Pitt at 574-797-0208.