Supply drive helps schools during difficult times

The African Diaspora Council in collaboration with the UWM Police Department led an effort to collect and deliver school supplies to two Milwaukee Public Schools. The supplies were presented to the principals of Robert M. LaFollette and Hopkins-Lloyd Community Schools at an event Friday, Oct. 9, at UWM. The UWM Police Department, which helped collect the supplies, then delivered them to the schools.

This is the fourth year the ADC, which includes 240 Black faculty, staff, retirees and alumni of UWM, and the police department have held a drive for LaFollette. Response was so strong this year that enough supplies were available to also donate to Hopkins-Lloyd. During this pandemic year, the supplies included disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and cloth masks as well as backpacks, scissors, chalk, folders and other classroom supplies.

Marny Donalson-Gamble (left), principal of LaFollette School, and Natosha Harris, principal of Hopkins-Lloyd Community School, say the donation of school supplies will help the schools and their students combat the extra difficulties created by the pandemic. (UWM Photo/Troye Fox)

“As we geared up for our fourth annual school supply drive, I knew it was more important than ever to ease some of the financial burden that our adopted school parents and teachers were experiencing during the COVID pandemic,” said Brenda Cullin, ADC co-chair and office manager in the Department of Economics. “I thought the best strategy would be to have a COVID-safe drop-off school supply collection.”

Supplies were collected at a tent outside Enderis Hall three times during September, and financial donations were sent online. “I believed in my vision, took control of the opportunity these challenging times presented, and I was very deliberate in organizing for a successful outcome,” she added. Diana Borders, assistant director of business services in the School of Education’s Office of Charter Schools, is ADC co-chair.

The effort received some unexpected help when UWM Police Officer Craig Rafferty went to the Germantown Walmart to buy hard-to-find disinfectant wipes. When he explained to the manager what he was looking for, the manager told him he had four pallets of supplies that had never been picked up by another school. He donated those supplies and $200 to the UWM effort.

Help appreciated

The principals at the two schools appreciate the supplies, especially this year.

“This is the fourth year our students have benefitted from these generous donations that help our students,” said Marny Donalson-Gamble, principal of LaFollette. “Our students are working virtually and don’t have the usual easy access to supplies, so we are putting packets together for them to work at home.”

More than 90% of the students at Hopkins-Lloyd are socially and economically disadvantaged, said Natosha Harris, principal. “Many of the students’ families have lost their employment during the pandemic,” she said, and some have lost their homes.

The principals are arranging drive-in supply pickups for families or delivering them to families who can’t make it to the schools.

Many at UWM come from 53206

Both schools are in the 53206 ZIP code, a few miles west of UWM, which is one of the more impoverished areas in Wisconsin. Many UWM faculty, staff and students grew up in or near the area; other pass through it regularly on their way to campus, said Cullin. Some LaFollette students continue on to UWM, including 1968 LaFollette grad Joyce M. King-McIver, a clinical associate professor and speech/language clinic coordinator. “The ADC’s partnership with LaFollette has a special place in my heart,” she said.

Representatives of UWM’s African Diaspora Council and Police Department donate school supplies at an event on campus Friday. (UWM Photo/Troye Fox)

Teachers and administrators at the schools often dig into their own pockets to buy supplies. Having these UWM supply donations allows them to buy other little incentives for their students during traumatic times, Harris said. “It encourages them to keep learning.”

Then pandemic has given many parents and community members a new appreciation for the work that schools and teachers do, Joan Prince, UWM vice chancellor for global inclusion and engagement, said at the presentation event. She noted that she also grew up in the 53206 ZIP code, and was proud the UWM community was helping children in the area continue their education with the donation of school supplies.

“This is what we should be doing as an R1 research public university,” she said. “That’s what we do here. We see the community needs and respond.”

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