Barbara Garcia’s favorite time of the year is when she gets to prepare foster children for the start of school.
As Garcia held up two thank-you cards she received from a child, she recounted all the items given out Sunday as part of the ninth annual Back-to-School Drive at Peggy’s Attic, a donation center at 701 N. Pecos Road. Organizers estimated 800 Clark County foster children went to the event, which had 62 volunteers.
There was the usual: backpack, paper, pencils, coloring supplies and books. However, with the coronavirus outbreak, students were also given a reusable mask, hand sanitizer and headphones to use for their distance learning classes.
Garcia, the owner of Atelier by Square Salon, has helped organize the event every year for nearly a decade.
It usually includes free haircuts to students, food, a live DJ and even dental work. But with the coronavirus outbreak, operations had to be moved outside and contact had to be at a minimum.
“We still found a way to do it,” Garcia said. “We give back to our community anyway we can.”
To comply with health guidelines, foster parents drove up to tents in the nearby Clark County Department of Family Services parking lot to get supplies. Volunteers would ask what they needed and load it all up in the back of vehicles.
Volunteers still tried to personalize each student’s experience by letting them choose their own backpacks.
“We try to make sure they feel like they aren’t forgotten about,” Garcia said. “The kids are so kind every year.”
The one of the two thank-you cards she help up read “Thank you! I love you!” in rainbow lettering.
The work doesn’t stop after the event is over, said Kimberly Coats, executive director of CASA Foundation, which also helped put the drive together.
The CASA Foundation is a nonprofit that helps foster children in Southern Nevada and will be focusing on educational needs. That work includes ensuring every student has a Chromebook and making tutoring opportunities available during the school year.
Distance learning will be particularly tough for foster children, Coats said.
“It’s not ideal,” she said. “That’s why our big thing is tutoring.”