Harvey County United Way to assist 300 teachers with back to school

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Harvey County United Way

A year ago the Harvey County United Way was faced with a bit of a challenge — how to perform an annual school supply drive to supply teacher wish lists in way that was deemed safe in the middle of a pandemic. 

The organization made a change. Rather than have people go shopping for items and donating them, United Way started taking monetary donations to purchase gift cards for teachers to use. 

"We are fundraising in each community for the individual community. So, funds raised Burrton stay in Burrton and dollars raised in Newton stay in Newton," said Dalton Reynolds-Black, director of Harvey County United Way. 

They called it "Tools for Schools," a departure from the traditional "Fill The Bus."

"Last year due to COVID we decided it wasn't the smartest to have people go into Walmart, purchase things and bring it out to the bus," said Dalton Reynolds-Black. "We decided to give our teachers in Harvey County gift cards so they could get what they want too. We got a lot of positive feed back from that."

In the past the United Way would create gift bags, based on wish lists teachers would turn in during the summer. 

That process was a ton of work, with as many as 185 bags created in the United Way office in the final days of summer break for students. 

The program will help more teachers this year as a result — about 300 teachers will receive a $30 gift card the first week of September for use in their classrooms

"We did a lot better than we anticipated with this change,"  Reynolds-Black said. "When you change a long-time program to something new, you never know what kind of response you are going to get."