Austin group hands out free supplies to offset back-to-school costs

Austin
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AUSTIN (KXAN) — An organization in Austin is spending the week giving school supplies to 2,000 students to help families minimize the costs of going back to school.

Austin ISD starts classes in three weeks, and the group Manos de Cristo wants every student to be ready, regardless of a family’s financial situation. Starting Monday and continuing every morning through the week, the charitable organization will give kids new clothes, backpacks, books and school supplies.

For families with more than one child, those costs can add up into the hundreds or even more. For Manos de Cristo’s executive director, she saw the need when she was an educator.

“I remember the child that came to school unprepared with just a pencil in their hand and, you know, clothes that were too big,” Julie Ballesteros said, “and the look of how they felt walking into the classroom when the others were there with their new clothes and all their school supplies.”

Ballesteros doesn’t want any child to feel that way, and over the years the school supplies program has grown, now serving 400 children each day.

Monday morning, families started lining up outside the IDEA Montopolis school in southeast Austin at 5 a.m., three hours before Manos de Cristo started handing out supplies. The drive is on a first come, first served basis.

The supplies, available to kids from Pre-K through 5th grade, are the result of donations, most of them from ordinary people who just want to help. The group gets name-brand supplies.

“We want to make sure that when we serve the children, that they receive things that we would want our own children to have,” Ballesteros said.

For families looking for a way to offset the costs of supplies, the children need to be in line as well. Students pick out two new sets of clothing, a new backpack, and books, so Manos de Cristo requires them to be there to choose.

The program has continued to grow over the years as the need hasn’t subsided.

“In our community, you know, things are so expensive,” Ballesteros said, “and just cost of living, putting food on the table, back-to-school items become luxuries.”

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