We have reached that time of the year again… back to school! It is a time of celebration for (most) kids and (all) parents! And of course, just prior to the big day, there was the annual ritual of purchasing new school supplies. Shiny new folders, vibrantly colored markers and perfectly sharpened pencils to start the school year off right. While many families don’t have to think twice about buying school supplies, for others the cost of these items is out of reach, and therefore the schools rely on donations.
Enter another Turquoise Table “Party with a Purpose.” The need for donated school supplies has grown in my neighborhood in recent years, due in part to nearby apartment complexes that offer resettlement communities for International Refugee families. These families come from countries all over the world – Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, just to name a few. Most of these families arrive to the U.S. with very little in the way of possessions, and certainly without educational tools. Recently a group of my neighbors gathered for a school supply drive aimed at providing elementary-aged kids in need with a new backpack and all of the pencils, notebooks, crayons, and other necessary supplies. The event was held at my friend Julie’s Turquoise Table, and more two dozen women participated.
“Providing a new backpack and various school supplies not only helps prepare these kids for school, but for the children of refugee families, it gives them some brand new possessions to call their very own,” Julie says. “We want these children and their families to feel not just welcome, but warmly embraced into our community and schools.”
New school supplies are hopefully the first connection of many that the refugee families will experience here. The school’s PTA offers the World Voices committee, which acts as a bridge between cultures for families at the school who are not native English speakers. The group serves as a resource for the students and parents throughout the year, to continually assist with assimilation and support.
Supporting our neighbors is precisely what the Turquoise Table represents, and the result of the school supply drive was 4 large bins of supplies and 30 backpacks ready to go! And, not only was the event a drive for school supplies, it was a chance for many in the neighborhood to meet for the first time or re-connect after summer vacation, while hanging out at the Turquoise Table.
“Gathering around the Turquoise Table, be it for a casual conversation or for a bigger service project like this supply drive, facilitates familiarity and friendship,” says Holly, another friend who participated in the event. “The table is the outward symbol that lets people know we are a neighborhood that is warm and welcoming.”
Of course this goodwill is occurring not only in my neighborhood, but in neighborhoods all across the country and even internationally. With so many Turquoise Table owners, and many, many more who are part the Front Yard People movement, some big things are happening. And just as a new school year is filled with promise, so is the direction that the Turquoise Table is heading. I’m so grateful and excited that you are along with me for the ride!