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home : news : local   May 3, 2016

8/5/2014 6:24:00 AM
You're helping needy kids get back to school

Scott Windy of Peru places crayons in a stack while sifting through countless boxes of art supplies for the 2014 Husky School program at Northwest School in La Salle.NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
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Scott Windy of Peru places crayons in a stack while sifting through countless boxes of art supplies for the 2014 Husky School program at Northwest School in La Salle.

NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
How to help
Distribution day is Aug. 6.

To donate
-  Locations — Northwest School in La Salle, Heartland Bank in Peru
-  For more info — Call the United Way at (815) 223-8539 and ask for Julie Sloan or Steve Siska

Lauren Blough
NewsTribune Reporter

More than 50 percent of students in the Illinois Valley come from low-income households.

HUSKY (Helping Underprivileged School Kids Year-round) is a program established by the United Way of Illinois Valley to get school supplies to the students that need them the most; but 50 percent isn’t the only statistic you should know.

4,858. The number of students identified as low-income students in the Illinois Valley that the HUSKY program has potential to help is 4,858 students.

29. Over the life of the program, the number of schools that benefit has increased. Currently the program helps 29 schools including schools in small and large communities.

When the program started it served fewer than than 20 schools in the Illinois Valley area.

9. HUSKY program coordinator Steve Siska of Peru said that a mix of nine education professionals including teachers, social workers and paraprofessionals throughout the Illinois Valley were called to find out what supplies are needed in the classroom.

With an increase in technology and schools adopting the 1:1 technology initiative, giving students constant classroom access to Google Chromebooks or Apple iPads, Siska was surprised to see what came back as the most needed supply: pencils.

“I was surprised to see that it’s still paper and pencils,” Siska said.

Siska and the HUSKY team of organizers, Julie Sloan and Daryk Brayton believe the need for pencils and paper reflects on something more important.

“I’m glad to see that teachers are the most important resource in a classroom,” Siska said.

“They’re the No. 1 tools,” Sloan added.

120. The HUSKY program does more than just collect and donate school supplies. For several years the program has also handed out Payless ShoeSource gift cards in the amount of $10.

This year the United Way will donate 120 of the $10 gift cards to area school for distribution.

12. People can donate to the Husky program all 12 months out of the year. This time of year brings a big push because the start of school is just around the corner.

Schools have been in need for help with school supplies year after year in the Illinois Valley.

“We’ve had schools over 50 percent for a long number of years,” Sloan said. The 50 percent she is referring to is the amount of students within area schools that are considered to be from low-income households.

“It’s a reflection of the whole Illinois Valley area and what our economic situation is,” Sloan added.
75. HUSKY donations help families who can’t afford to buy the necessary school supplies to meet their needs. With supply lists growing longer and fuller, the final cost of supplies can be at least $75 per student; and that’s the low side of total figures, Brayton said.

500. Siska and the HUSKY team are estimating that 500 reams of paper will be ordered for the program to distribute to students.

250. Siska said that nearly 250 packs of pens, pencils and crayons will be ordered and distributed to the schools.

Volunteers help sort though the order of school supplies before distribution day. Boxes of supplies will be sorted through at Northwest School in La Salle and then divided and distributed to schools in the area.

Lauren Blough can be reached at (815) 220-6931 or Follow her on Twitter @NT_SpringValley.

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