Dubuque organization provides school supplies - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque organization provides school supplies

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

One Dubuque organization is seeing a sharp rise in costs as it provides area kids in need with school supplies.

It's St. Mark Community Center's 16th annual Apples for Students program, and it's serving more students than ever.

"We've got markers, pencils, scissors, erasers, folders, paper, glue," volunteer JoAnn Mohr listed, surveying the vast amount of supplies laid out on tables at Dubuque's Grand River Center. "Just about everything imaginable that you can think of that a child would need in a classroom."

She joined about 80 other volunteers from McGraw-Hill throughout the day Thursday to fill plastic bags with back-to-school supplies for local students in need.

"We've finally got a system down, and we're finally warming up," volunteer Deb Haigh said Thursday morning, as she walked down the row of supplies, filling the white bag in her hand.

The day started with nearly 41,000 pencils; 15,000 notebooks; 30,000 folders and thousands of other supplies.

St. Mark Community Center's executive director Sr. Inez Turnmeyer said Apples for Students started in 1996.

"We had 200 kids the first year on our list," she said.

The center's director of development and marketing, Karen Tuecke, said that number has dramatically risen.

"Flash forward in 2011, and we have over 1,700 individuals that are in need of back to school supplies this year," Tuecke said.

That's the largest number yet: between 15 and 20 percent of the entire K-12 student population in Dubuque, which consists of more than 10,000 students.

In addition to a larger number of students in need, rising costs of school supplies and tough economic times are creating a challenge.

"It's getting harder because the prices at the stores have gone up," Turnmeyer said. "If you look at the stores, they have more costs because of the fuel and, you know, getting things there, but things that I used to buy for, like, nine cents are up to 15 cents; 20 cents are up to 40 cents. Everything I bought this year has gone up."

Even purchasing items at bulk prices, all the supplies this year are costing the organization $25,000. That's $7,000 more than last year.

"The economy has a huge impact on this," Tuecke said. "If families are getting larger, their income is staying the same or decreasing, they are in great need of assistance in providing school supplies."

The supplies are going to both public and private schools in Dubuque.

"You also need to buy your clothes, backpacks and all of the other necessary materials to go back to school, so what we do is try and ease the burden on the families," Tuecke said.

"It's very rewarding, actually, to be able to do this for children and for their parents, as well, who can't afford to buy a lot of the school supplies that they need," Mohr said.

"Without this program, a lot of children might not have the things they need for school," Haigh said.

Volunteers with John Deere are delivering the supplies to schools on Friday.

St. Mark Community Center said it is still several thousand dollars short of funding this year's program, though Turnmeyer said she thanks those who have donated.

"People in Dubuque have been tremendous," she said. "Whenever we put out a need for the children, we seem to get it, so people in Dubuque are generous."

People interested in donating can contact Sr. Inez Turnmeyer at 563-582-6211, ext. 100 or write a check to St. Mark Community Center and send it to:

St. Mark Community Center
1201 Locust Street
Dubuque, Iowa 52001-4709

Also, Big Apple Bagels in Dubuque is donating to Apples for Students 20 percent of its profits earned Mondays in August between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. People can also purchase a paper bagel there for $5, $10 or $20, all of which goes to the St. Mark program.

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