Mansfield Living

Common Ground Network to open registration for back-to-school supplies

The Common Ground Network has raised its target for putting back-to-school supplies into the hands of Mansfield school district students from low-income families.

And for the first time it has set two sign-up days to encourage more families to apply. The first is on Saturday.

Charity officials, who provided packets of school materials and backpacks to 360 students last year, hope to raise enough funds to provide for 500 students. That goal would require about $13,000, compared with $9,000 raised last year — about $25 per packet — said the nonprofit group’s treasurer, Victoria Dodd.

She said she’s optimistic about the new goal because contribution levels have been rebounding since the recession, including a boost last year.

“We haven’t had the situation come up where we’ve had so many students that we couldn’t assist them all,” Dodd said. “We’ve been blessed to be able to assist all the families that qualify.”

Common Ground, a Mansfield-based network of churches and nonprofit service organizations, first will sign up students on Saturday at Walnut Ridge Baptist Church, 1201 Texas 360.

The second date is the following Saturday, May 16, at The Church on Rush Creek, 2200 U.S. 287. Families sign up from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days.

The families would pick up the school supplies during a “wellness fair” Aug 15 at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1188 W. Broad St., where the children could can get haircuts, dental checkups and other services that are still being arranged.

Chad Crafton, who co-chairs the charity’s school supplies committee with Dodd, said he is working to sign a vendor for eye exams and glasses. He also expects a chiropractor — who checked students for scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine, and other conditions last year — to return.

Crafton will provide some of the entertainment with his own business, All Jumpin’ Monkeys Inflatables, a style of bounce houses.

The supplies are available to children from pre-kindergarten age through eighth grade who live in the Mansfield district and whose families meet income eligibility requirements.

Common Ground sets its maximum family income limit at or near the federal poverty level, which this year is $24,250 for a family of four.

In the Mansfield district, 13,066 of its 33,000 students — 39 percent — are approved for the federal free and reduced-price meal program, which is based on income slightly above the poverty line.

Many nonprofits, including Common Ground, work hard to provide food for students, which means school supplies easily could be overlooked without the program.

“If this program didn’t exist, it would put a greater hardship on campuses that are already trying to provide supplies,” said Liz Wright, who serves on the committee. Another plus for her is the target demographic. “It’s our kids. It’s only the kids what attend MISD.”

Common Ground uses donations to buy school supplies from Education Products of Carrollton, which tailors the packages to the needs of two grade levels, Crafton said. For example, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten would get the same supplies, and first- and second-graders would have their own combination of supplies.

“It’s better than going out and buying 600 pencils,” Dodd said. “And we used to do that.”

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641

Twitter: @Kaddmann