Providing ‘Bright Beginnings’ for young students
A joint effort involving the YMCA, Target, and volunteers in Richmond, Virginia, outfits students with clothes and school supplies.
For 9-year-old Tionte of Richmond, Virginia, an evening of sub sandwiches and shopping was “exciting and fun.” For her shopping companion, Wells Fargo’s Sandra Doll, it was so much more.
“They go home with clothes and shoes and a backpack, but I feel like I get even more from it than the kids do,” Sandra says. “It reminds me of how incredibly blessed I am, and that always encourages me to want to give back even more.”
Sandra and Tionte are among those participating in the Richmond YMCA’s Bright Beginnings program. Bright Beginnings helps students be ready for school by providing new clothes and shoes, as well as a backpack full of school supplies. The program started in 1992 — and today, 17 area YMCAs participate.
“We never want financial need to be the reason a child isn’t set up for academic success,” says Katie Gholson, the Richmond YMCA’s director of community engagement. “Prepared and confident kids today become contributing and engaged adults tomorrow. Clothes, shoes, backpacks — they’re all key components in helping a child focus on learning.”
With help from Target, Bright Beginnings helped more than 2,000 children at 67 shopping events this year. During each event, children were paired with adult volunteers for dinner, bonding, and shopping.
Wells Fargo volunteers donated 200 backpacks, stuffed with school supplies, and participated in two special “Wells Fargo shopping nights,” helping children to pick out just the right items.
“Tionte was sharing with me what she likes and doesn’t like,” says Sandra. “She would try things on and then we’d decide together if it was going to make the cut. I took my own 9-year-old daughter with me to help. She’s in the fourth grade like Tionte, so I’m sure her opinion was probably more valuable than mine!”
At the end of the night, Tionte gave Sandra a hug and a high five, and joined the other students on a bus headed for home.
“This is about helping our kids feel good about themselves in school and beyond,” says Sandra. “The fact that it feels so rewarding for those of us who volunteer is just an awesome bonus.”