When we started Operation: Kid Equip, we were amazed that approximately 30 million American children are from low-income families. Nearly 6 million live in extreme poverty where purchasing and paying for the bare necessities are a challenge. In Michigan, we found that 22% of Michigan children live in poverty.
Closer to home, we were startled when we discovered the number of children on the free and reduced-priced lunch program – an indicator of poverty levels in a community. Despite our initial beliefs, we quickly discovered that child poverty is not limited to specific communities traditionally known for higher poverty. Every “rich” and “poor” school district has students relying on free or reduced-priced meals. Child poverty rears its head in all of our local schools and communities.
We then asked the question: What does child poverty mean in our communities? We found that after all of the bills are paid, many families are left with very little money to buy anything else, including school supplies and reading books for their children. Many of the school supplies that we often take for granted are like luxuries for many families with limited incomes.
We also heard from a good number of teachers who have students coming to school without school supplies. Teachers were telling us that they were spending $500-$1,500 out of their own pockets for their classrooms. Teachers also shared the issues they face in the classroom when students are unprepared for their studies.
Taking everything we were learning into account, we finally asked: How could we help our communities, and especially our children, reach their highest potential?
We believe that a child’s academic achievement should not be constrained by financial (in)abilities. Operation: Kid Equip developed its vision and mission around providing children with the tools to succeed. We work diligently to provide the key items children need. This in turn helps increase test scores, attendance, positive behavior and the self-worth of all students.
In the course of our work, we also found Operation: Kid Equip helps teachers be more effective and feel successful. Students are able to complete assignments and actively participate in the classroom. This allows teachers to see, experience and achieve results from their noble work.
Parents are also grateful that Operation: Kid Equip is able to help provide the school supplies and books their children need. It helps remove one more stressor in the course of daily life.
How can we make this happen?
As an all-volunteer community benefit organization, we engage our entire community to help break all of the cycles facing our children and their future. We work with individuals, businesses, civic groups and other organizations to increase awareness, raise funds, hold school supply drives, identify families and schools, and distribute tangible items. Most importantly, we have fun doing it.
With all that said, Operation: Kid Equip’s goal is to help improve public education and the psychosocial well-being of children who are underprivileged. We do it through passion, dedication and a very unique mission.