It started as a simple idea in a living room. Menachem Kniespeck was convinced that children would do better in school with access to the proper supplies, so he began collecting pencils, paper, crayons, and glue to fill some backpacks, and Operation Kid Equip (OKE) was born.
Nowadays Menachem’s “little engine that could” provides an enormous amount of valuable assistance to serve the community of over 741,000 impoverished children living in Michigan. Sadly over the past few years the number of at risk kids has continued to grow, but fortunately so has the creativity and resources at Operation Kid Equip.
Where once the majority of supplies available through the nonprofit were collected from donation boxes or purchased from local stores, now there are established partnerships to collect larger quantities of supplies from corporate partners. The expensive task of retrieving and distributing them still falls to the OKE team. The result of these newer expanded relationships is that every donor dollar goes much further since the charity doesn’t have to purchase supplies at retail cost. The nonprofit is now able to turn every dollar donated into $19 worth of supplies for students in need.
The larger supply contributions have also led to some amazing new programs over the years:
School Supply Program for Educators
It has become increasingly common in recent times for teachers to spend large chunks of their hard-earned cash to buy supplies on their own to serve their students. This program is designed to alleviate some of that strain by providing educators with supplemental school supplies to give to students who need them in the classroom, or at home to complete homework assignments.
Participation in this program is currently limited to traditional public school teachers in Macomb, Oakland, Roscommon and Wayne Counties. Eligibility is also determined by building poverty level. Educators must work in a building where 70% or more of the students are eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program. Teachers may get supplies or books for their students without any direct cost for the materials. There is just a small fee of $10 per visit.
As the saying goes, reading is indeed fundamental, yet too many students never have the luxury of having a book of their own to take home. Now comes an opportunity to change all that.
This program provides FREE books for ALL Michigan kids. There are no income requirements to receive free books. The only cost is shipping and a small handling fee. Families may order the books online at www.mfefamily.org.
Homeless Student Services
As OKE grew and gained access to more students, teachers, and parents, additional needs began to arise among homeless students. OKE now works with more than 30 distribution partners around the state to provide hygiene as well as school supplies to this special population. In many cases they provide emergency kids for the growing number of students who are newly experiencing homelessness.
One of the latest genius ideas at OKE is the opportunity for generous donors to sponsor school supplies for an individual student or family. The website shows pictures and shares some information on the family’s struggle to help people find a family or child that inspires them to want to lend a hand.
While Operation Kid Equip continues to grow to meet the needs of what seems like an ever-expanding community of at risk kids, the path has not been without significant challenges. There have been three floods at the nonprofit’s headquarters, prompting a move to a new space in Clinton Township.
The new location provides an exciting opportunity, but setting up the space has also put extra strain on the human and financial resources of the organization. With the back-to-school push right around the corner, now is an ideal time to get involved. Check out the website to learn about volunteer opportunities or consider making an online donation.
It’s not often that you have the opportunity to stretch the value of a single dollar into nineteen!
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