Hundreds of students began the new school year with the supplies they needed thanks to a donation to local schools by a south suburban mentoring organization.
Shopping carts at the Country Club Hills WalMart located on 167th Street were filled to the brim as teachers and administrators from Elementary School District 159, Matteson School District 162 and Southland College Prep Charter High School shopped for families. The shopping trip was made possible by a donation from the Making Disciples Boys Mentoring program, a Christian mentoring group.
The group started in 2015 and usually has a back-to-school event in August where children are given school supplies. Because of COVID-19, they could not host the annual event. Eric Bassette, the group’s founder, and his wife, Annette, decided they still wanted to help children who would need supplies so they reached out to local districts in the area.
“We believe that giving back to our children is the most important thing that we can do,” Bassette said. “Whatever we can do to enhance their learning, we want to do that.”
The group made a $3,000 donation to Matteson School District 162 and Southland College Prep. The district includes seven schools from pre-kindergarten to 8th grade, serving the communities of Matteson, Richton Park, Olympia Fields, Park Forest and University Park. Southland College Prep is located in Richton Park. Elementary School District 159, which serves portions of the communities of Matteson, Richton Park and Tinley Park, received a $1,500 donation.
Woodgate Elementary School teachers Cindy Bulthuis, a 5th grade teacher, and Patrice Hambrick, a kindergarten teacher, shopped for District 159. Hambrick also brought along her twin sons Joshua and Josiah, 4, and her son Devin, 8, who is a second grader at Woodgate. Like other students at Districts 159, 162 and Southland, Devin is starting off the school year remotely, with teachers instructing in their classrooms and students joining the class via computer.
Kevin Murphy, a Matteson School District 162 and Southland College Prep board member, stood inside Walmart on Sept. 12, 2020, helping district administrators Rebecca Dixon and Jaimie Goodley fill baskets with items from crayons, rulers, folders and backpacks for elementary students to calculators, flash drives and headphones for high school students.
Murphy estimated that between 50 to 100 families would benefit from the donation including students who are homeless.
“This is important because it demonstrates that District 162 and Southland College Prep really care about more than just classroom education. They care about preparing students to be successful and part of that preparation is to have the right school supplies,” Murphy said. “Through this generous donation, District 162 is able to provide these supplies to students who otherwise would not have them.”