Six weeks down and only four to go. We are past the half-way point of summer break for Santa Rosa County schools. You have taken the family trip, summer camp, VBS, the beach, movies, arts and crafts, but you are running out of ideas. The kids are bored, tired of the rainy weather and you are ready to pull your hair out. I know, let’s start thinking about school again - shopping for new backpacks, school supplies and the perfect outfit for the first day of school. It is a fun and exciting ritual for a lot of families but there are many families in our community that can’t afford these supplies and could show up on the first day of school without the tools needed for their success. This need leads you to an opportunity to teach your kids about helping others, giving back and volunteering.
For 14 years, Cram the Van, sponsored by WEAR TV3 ,the Sandy Sansing Dealerships and United Way of Santa Rosa County, has provided school supplies for our children in need in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties. The drive benefits students in need, giving them supplies before the start of school so they are prepared the first day. After the start of school, teachers who notice a child without supplies can report to United Way and the Cram the Van program will furnish supplies for those children. The drive also benefits classrooms with any extra supplies.
One person who saw this program as that opportunity to teach her kids the value of giving and volunteering is Denise Martin. She has been an integral part of the Cram the Van at United Way of Santa Rosa County for the past 5 years. She, her children and her fiancée’s children: Jennifer King (19), Allen Carr (18), Valerie Carr (16), Brittany Martin (13) and Autumn King (11) have been the driving force behind the packing and distribution of school supplies to children in need in Santa Rosa County.
“Denise has helped with most of our programs such as Cram the Van, Toys for Tots and Coats for Kids,” said Marianne Back, Director of Planning & Design for United Way of Santa Rosa County. “She is a one-woman show who is a recruiter, leader and volunteer coordinator. She inspires others to work together, and despite debilitating health difficulties for her family, Denise always comes through for the cause.”
“I love to work with United Way because I get to meet new people, feel that it’s a good cause, and feel it’s good for the children to learn about helping others. Despite long hours and sometimes grueling work, it has been a fun experience for me and the children to help others,” said Denise.
You still have the opportunity to get involved this year and teach your kids the importance of helping others like Denise did with her family. On Thursday, July 25, you can come out to the Walmart’s in Gulf Breeze and Pace to donate school supplies for children in our community and help us Cram the Van. There are also volunteer opportunities available and you can contact Marianne at the United Way of Santa Rosa County office for details. With your help we can make sure every child in Santa Rosa County is equipped for success on the first day of school.
- Kristen Loera,
Director of Coastal Development for United Way of Santa Rosa County