Bethlehem Lutheran women's group asks for school supplies

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By Kirsten Laskey

Having new school supplies can be the difference between starting off the school year with a good attitude or a bad one, said Judith Magelssen, coordinator of supplies for the ECLA and Self Help Inc. School Supply Project.

She said she has taught in the Pojoaque for eight years and would see some students come in with no supplies, which can hurt when they are with their peers. However, after a visit to the counselor’s office to pick up the needed items, courtesy of the School Supply Project, Magelssen said students return with big smiles.

Self Help has helped put these smiles on students’ faces for 14 years. Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Women of Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America (ELCA) has pitched in for the past three years.

A local resident started the School Supply Project before asking Self Help Inc. to take it over. Although the organization had the funds, Magelssen said, there wasn’t enough manpower, however, because Self Help is located in Bethlehem Lutheran, the ECLA group volunteered to help out.

Although the ELCA is just one of several partners in the program, Los Alamos National Bank donated 2,000 pencils and United Way funds grant money to purchase items in bulk through Staples, Morris said many of the ELCA members are teachers or retired teachers so they know the importance of having students prepared for the year.

In fact, Ellen Morris, executive director of Self Help Inc., thanks all the teachers who give up their vacation to help with the project as well as the volunteers.

While purchases through Staples satisfy a lot of needs, the ELCA and Self Help encourage donations from the community.

“We really would like backpacks,” Magelssen said. “We’re not buying backpacks so ee that’s the number one need.”

Additionally, 10-packs of markers, laminated two-pocket folders and colored pencils can also be donated.

Donations should be brought to Bethlehem Lutheran, located at 2390 North Road, before Aug. 3, which is when the items will be sorted before being distributed Aug. 4.

Morris said supplies are delivered to Espaola School District, Mesa Vista School District, Los Alamos Public Schools, Taos and Pojoaque.

“It’s a project that helps elementary children all the way around northern New Mexico ee it’s just a project that really reaches beyond Los Alamos,” Paula Nichols of the ECLA said.

School supplies are distributed through counselors in a confidential manner. New supplies not only bring relief to students, but also to their parents.

“When school starts, parents become very alarmed at the school supplies and the cost of school supplies ee (which) can cost up to $100-$200,” Morris said.

Therefore, the School Supply Project satisfies the students and relieves stress for the parents, she said. For more information about this program, see the Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church listing below.