Warsaw Community Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert talks to students who attended Thursday’s Tools for Schools event at the Kosciusko Fairgrounds. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union.
Warsaw Community Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert talks to students who attended Thursday’s Tools for Schools event at the Kosciusko Fairgrounds. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union.
Combined Community Services helped students get off on the right foot for school at its Tools For School  event at the Kosciusko Fairgrounds Thursday.

In its 26th year, Tools for School was originally called Christmas in July, said CCS Case Manager for Project Independence and the program Hand Up Ami Pitt. The idea of the event came from a previous case manager wanting to give away toys at Christmas and she wanted to give away school supplies, as well.

Kosciusko County students were able to pick up bags of school supplies Thursday.

Pitt said Meijer was “very generous” this year and donated over $31,000 in school supplies for the event. The Morning Optimists provided 864 backpacks to give away. TCU donated funds that will go toward things such as purchasing gym uniforms for seventh- and eighth-graders, Pitt said. All the school supplies that students picked up Thursday were donated by corporate donors, such as Meijer and Staples.

Pitt said CCS planned on giving out supplies to 1,200 students. About 45 minutes into the event, she said the event had over 200 people come in at that point. She said she hoped it stayed steady throughout the day Thursday.

CCS Executive Director Randy Polston said the supplies given to students were basically off the class supply list, which includes paper, pens, erasers, “a little bit of everything in there.”

During the event, a short intake questionnaire was done for people who came to the event, Pitt said. Questions included name, address, phone and school the student attended.

Tim Frame, director of emergency services at CCS, said if someone wasn’t able to make it to the event Thursday, they can call CCS and they will have a limited supply of bags to give away to people.

Frame said the kids seem to be really excited to go to school this year. It was great to see the smiles on the faces of the students as they went through the line to get school supplies and talk to WCS Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert and other staff to make sure they were enrolled in school, he said.

In 2020, Tools for School was a drive-through event. This year, people were able to go into the Kosciusko Fairgrounds Home & Family Arts building and pick up supplies, get haircuts and talk to organizations such as Girl Scouts of America, Healthy Families and Ivy Tech.

Pitt said CCS was taking precautions with the event, knowing the COVID-19 cases were going up. There was hand sanitizer at the event and they weren’t doing the fun events like face painting this year.

“But we felt it was safe enough to have people come through the building,” Pitt said.

While students throughout Kosciusko County could participate in Tools for School, WCS staff, such as Hoffert, were at the event to make sure students were enrolled in school.

Hoffert said WCS has been helping out at Tools for School since Polston started with CCS because WCS kept seeing “all the wonderful things they were doing for our kids and community.”  

Hoffert said there were ways WCS could partner with the event. Thursday, WCS staff were “out here being able to meet and greet parents, being able to see our kids that are coming back” and answering transportation and registration questions and showcase what’s going on in the schools.

Hoffert said he believed the process of getting students registered Thursday was going well. Overall, about 85% of students corporationwide were registered. Thursday, Hoffert said about 50-75% of the students that went through the event that far were already registered. He said registration affects class sizes and transportation routes.

Pitt said she hopes next year to get other school corporations in the county involved, such as Tippecanoe Valley, Whitko and Wawasee, because students throughout the county come to the event.

Pitt said the benefit of Tools for School is to get the students equipped, so they have all the equipment they need to get started and are not pulling out of the teachers’ resources.

Polston said there is an old African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Through his experience, he’s leaned on that concept. Donors, supplies and other gifts all came together Thursday to affect “so many lives in our community,” he said.

Hoffert said Tools for School is so beneficial to the community. WCS wants every kids to feel excited about going to school.