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Island families prepare for a new school year

By Staff | Aug 7, 2013

Mackenzie Orsino, 8, and Tyler Lloyd, 4, started shopping for school supplies last week at Needful Things in Tahitian Gardens. Mckenzie Cassidy.

The 2013-2014 school year opens this week and families across the island have been stocking up with supplies.

Needful Things, a collectibles store in Tahitian Gardens, was one of the stores gearing up for back-to-school shopping. Besides donating items directly to local students, the store also provided customers with a chance to get 10 percent off purchases and win a gift basket.

Mackenzie Orsino, 8, is about to start the fourth grade at The Sanibel School and started shopping at Needful Things last week with her mother, Tiffany. She was excited to start another school year on Aug. 8.

“Art is my favorite subject,” she said.

Allison Ferrer, owner of Needful Things, scheduled store specials last weekend to coincide with the tax-free holiday.

“I know there are a lot of kids on the island who need backpacks and school supplies,” she said.

The Sanibel School hosts an open house for new students tonight and supply lists are posted at the school’s website (sbl.leeschools.net).

Most local students in the eighth grade or lower attend The Sanibel School and are preparing for the first day, yet some families on the island struggle to obtain the necessary supplies for their children. According to a National Retail Federation survey, the average family with school-aged children will spend $634.78 on clothes, shoes, supplies, and electronics in 2013.

The Sanibel-Captiva Optimists Club recently donated $700 to Community Housing and Resources (CHR), a non-profit that partners with the city to provide affordable housing. They currently serve 150 island residents.

CHR split the donation into $25 Target gift cards that 29 island children could use to go school shopping.

Friends Who Care, another non-profit on the island overseen by Tom Louwers, also works with organizations like FISH of Sanibel to get supplies to children who need them. FISH is currently organizing their annual backpack program.

Christine Swiersz, a FISH program director, said backpacks full of food are provided to three preschools, the recreational center, and The Sanibel School. Backpacks are also available for pick up at their office. Last year, FISH delivered 48 backpacks per week.

“This year it will probably grow because we are waiting to here back from families,” said Swiersz. “The main focus is making sure there is weekend nutrition for children whose family has a need. It’s open to any island family.”

Most of the clients who work with FISH are from middle class families, but lost a job or had hours cut over the summer.

The Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday was from Aug. 2-4 and for the first time ever the state included personal computers and accessories selling for up to $750 as tax-free supplies. Clothing and shoes for up to $75 and school supplies for up to $15 were also tax-free.

The Florida Department of Revenue also developed a QR code for shoppers to scan with their smartphones and get a list of tax-free items, but they needed to download a free QR application first.