Q&A With Kids In Need Foundation
This summer, Colony American Homes teamed up with Kids In Need Foundation for a back to school supplies drive.
The Kids in Need Foundation provides free school supplies to students and teachers across the country. Their mission is to ensure that every child is prepared to learn and succeed by providing free school supplies nationally to students most in need. We collected over 12,000 items to donate to KINF!
We chatted with Kristine Cohn, Senior Director of Development and Corporate Partnerships to learn more.
CAH: Explain how KINF works
KC: In theory and in practice the idea of the Kids In Need Foundation is to get school supplies into the hands of students who need them. Not having school supplies is a barrier to learning for students whose parents cannot afford to purchase the supplies they need to participate in classroom activities. The criteria we use to determine if a school’s population is in need of supplies is if at least 70 percent of students in the school are eligible for free or reduced lunch.
We provide school supplies to students through four different programs:
- The Kids In Need National Network of Resource Centers – facilities where teachers go to obtain free school supplies for their students and themselves
- School Ready Supplies – free standing backpack and supply giveaway programs in communities not served by the Resource Centers
- Second Responder – provides free school supplies to children who have been affected by natural disasters
- Kids In Need Teacher Grants – a program that provides funds to teachers so they can purchase supplies needed by students to participate in hands-on learning projects.
In 2014, 4.2 million students directly benefited from the programs of the Kids In Need Foundation.
CAH: How do students get the supplies?
KC: Teachers who “shop” at the Resource Centers take the supplies back to their classrooms for their students. Students receive backpacks filled with supplies directly through the School Ready Supplies program and the Second Responder® program. The Teacher Grants program funds the purchase of supplies students need to participate in the projects.
CAH: Tell us more about the 4 different programs KINF operates
KC: The National Network of Resource Centers consists of 34 facilities nationwide where teachers from qualified high-poverty schools go to obtain supplies needed by their students, positively impacting millions of students and resulting in improved test scores, attendance, and classroom behavior. The Centers are set up like retail stores, but all materials teachers choose from the shelves are free. Neither is there any charge to the Resource Centers by us for providing supplies to them. There is no charge either to students for the supplies. In 2014, more than $117 million worth of supplies was distributed. Each Resource Center is operated by local staffs and volunteers and is designed to best serve the teachers in that particular community.
The Teacher Grants program awards grants of $100-$500 to preK-12 educators who want to conduct innovative classroom projects for which no other funding is available. These are the projects that if teachers want to do them, they have to pay for the supplies out of their own pockets. More than $1.6 million in grants have been awarded to teachers since the program’s inception in 1997, exposing approximately 400,000 students to learning experiences they otherwise would not have had. Teachers apply for the grants online from July 15 to Sept. 30 each year, describing what the objectives of their projects are and the activities that will lead the students to succeed in meeting them. Grant awards are not based on financial need so much as on the creativity and educational value of the projects, classroom experiences that will enhance learning and will motivate students to seek new knowledge.
The School Ready Supplies program extends our reach to children in need where they are not currently served by Resource Centers, including rural, isolated regions. Students are provided with backpacks and basic school supplies. The giveaway programs are sponsored by corporations, local businesses, community organizations, and individuals. School Ready Supplies programs have been highly effective in getting children off to a good start at back-to-school time but can be conducted at any time – school supplies are always needed and appreciated by students who do not have them.
Adopted as an official program in 2013, Second Responder® provides free backpacks and school supplies to children recovering from the impact of natural disasters so they can get back to school with confidence and resume a very important routine in their lives. Many children who go through tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and wildfires are left with nothing but the clothes they were wearing at the time the disaster struck.
CAH: Do you have any favorite KINF stories?
KC: From a letter received at the Kids In Need Foundation: “Last year, because of the Foundation, I was able to equip all the children in my third-grade classroom with three ring binders. This is a much-coveted item because I think it makes them feel like real students. They see older kids carry binders, and they want to be like them. The second day after I passed them out, Thomas came to school without his binder. He had the papers that were in the binder but not the binder itself. When I questioned him, he said he didn’t have it anymore. I was afraid someone had taken it from him, so I pressed him about where it was. Finally, he said he had given it to his sister, who was in the fourth grade. I asked him why he had done that, and he said his sister didn’t have a notebook for longer than he didn’t have a notebook, so he gave it to her for her birthday. Neither one of them had ever had a notebook before. But what made it even more special was that it made Thomas so happy to give it to her. It was the first time he had ever been able to give his sister a present of any kind for her birthday or any other occasion.”
CAH: What is the best part about working for a foundation like KINF?
KC: The best thing about working for the Kids In Need Foundation is that I realize every day that what we do actually makes a positive difference in the lives of the children who receive supplies. Receiving the supplies they need means these kids no longer have to worry about how they are going to do their school work. They do not have to be embarrassed in the classroom because they do not have pencils or paper or crayons. They no longer have to do without.
CAH: How can people get involved with KINF?
KC: Resource Centers use thousands of volunteers every year to maintain the efficient operation of their Centers. Volunteers serve on their boards of directors and advisory committees, they assist teachers with their shopping, they help stock shelves between teacher visits, they recruit and manage volunteers, help with fundraising, and perform clerical duties. People who live near a Resource Center can call the Center to volunteer their skills for the benefit of the Center and the students and teachers it serves.
People can organize backpack giveaways in their communities that do not have Resource Centers. Conducting a backpack build with employees of a company is a terrific team building exercise, as is raising the funds necessary to sponsor a backpack giveaway for local schools.
Of course, donating funds and product directly to the Kids In Need Foundation is always an option. Increasing awareness about what we do is extremely valuable to us. People can tell their friends, families, colleagues, bosses, and teachers at the schools their children attend about our programs. If someone wishes to get involved, call us to discuss how your specific talents can best serve children and teachers.
Now, we are turning to our residents, fans and followers to benefit the organization. Your photos, our money. Check out our Back to School photo contest on Facebook.
Not a Colony American resident? Keep an eye out for our weekly entry video on Facebook, share it and we’ll donate another $1!