Woodward, Okla. —
It may be only June, but Western Plains Youth and Family Services is already getting prepared for the next school year.
Western Plains has kicked off its 6th annual school supply drive to collect items to benefit the children it serves.
As an agency that offers a variety of programs for children, from counseling to foster care to a youth shelter, Western Plains often serves students who don't have all the school supplies they need.
And according to Krystal Lujan, who is the Therapeutic Foster Care director and outpatient coordinator for Western Plains, there's a constant need for school supplies, not just when the new school year begins.
"We give out supplies year round, because children come into Therapeutic Foster Care and our shelter all year round and we always pack them a bag. So for us, it's not just in August," Lujan said.
Throughout the year she said the agency will help provide supplies for "over 100 children."
"It makes a real difference to these kids when they go to school, whether it's in August or anytime in the year, with a full sack of supplies. It makes a difference when they feel like they can succeed because they have all the right tools," she said.
While the need is year-round, Western Plains only collects the supplies during the summer since that is a time when many people are already thinking about buying items for their own children.
This year Lujan said supplies will be collected through July 31 at the Western Plains office at 1213 Hanks Trail, the main branch of Stock Exchange Bank at 1117 10th St., and at the Stage store at 2815 8th St.
"Some of the big items that we usually don't have enough of are wipes, like the Clorox wipes, boxes of tissues, and high school aged stuff like protractors and calculators," Lujan said, adding "hand sanitizer is another big one."
Of course, Western Plains will also be collecting "backpacks and all the other normal school supplies such as glue sticks and markers and those things," she said.
Kevin Evans, executive director for Western Plains, said if you're not sure what to buy, you can always just look at school supply lists.
"Basically anything you'd buy for your kids, we need for our kids," Evans said.
Both Evans and Lujan said the community has shown "incredible support" for the school supply drive over the past 5 years.
"We've had great success from Vacation Bible Schools that have collected items as a mission project during their VBS week and then bring them in to us after," Lujan said.
Evans said he also "hear(s) from people who participate every year, who say their kids just love to go out and shop for the other kids."
In addition to collecting the supplies, Lujan said Western Plains also accepts monetary donations "flagged for the school supply drive."
"We'll use that to go buy the things that we may be lacking, such as hand sanitizer or wipes," she said.
That's part of the reason the school supply drive ends on July 31, to give agency staff time to organize all the items that have been collected and determine what supplies are still needed, she said.
Monetary donations are also "a great way for people to still help if they don't want to go buy items themselves."