FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Riverwatch Middle School seventh grader Lauren Burgess didn’t mind spending a Tuesday morning sorting school supplies.
“We came from our school to help people less fortunate than us,” she said. “We know that we are very fortunate to live in Forsyth County and be able to come and help out.”
She and her peers traveled March 7 to the Foster Care Support Foundation in Roswell as part of the school’s Panther Pay it Forward day. Students were dispatched to 23 locations, including the Humane Society of Forsyth County, Forsyth County Parks and Recreation and United Way.
At this location, Burgess and the rest of the students from the seventh grade English language arts class taught by Leslie Storm helped the group sort schools supplies, clothing and games for future customers.
Storm said the day was a great way for students to learn beyond the typical school subjects.
“Having this experience outside of school will be so beneficial to the students,” Storm said. “This will open their eyes to things they didn’t realize. Our community gives a lot to the schools so this is our way of giving back to them.”
The foundation takes more than 6,000 volunteers a year, including groups like these students, according to Executive Director Rachel Ewald. The foundation is preparing to distribute school supplies to more than 2,000 kids before summer so the students won’t have to worry about finding materials during the break.
“This teaches the students how to give back to people less fortunate than them,” Ewald said. “Although we do live in a bubble, there’s a way to reach outside of it and make a difference.”
The foundation doesn’t get a penny of government funds and relies on community and volunteer support, she said. They’d like to serve up to 10,000 kids a year but can’t on their current budget.
“Kids are resilient, but they remember (what happens in foster care),” Ewald said. “We need the community to help and maybe we’ll make a difference. It is kids helping kids, people helping people. The community might not be able to help, so we give them a way. Not everyone can be a foster parent but everyone can help a foster child.”
And after all the sorting, cleaning and helping were complete, Burgess said she and her peers did in fact learn the expected lesson.
“We shouldn’t take for granted what we have. We get to wake up, take a shower, put on clean clothes and go to school and not get made fun of for what we’re wearing,” she said. “People less fortunate than us don’t get to do that.”
To find out more about the foundation, visit fostercares.org.