This page contains all published In Print blog posts — containing newspaper articles, news stories and other media about us — sorted chronologically with the newest at the top.

Volunteer Dorothy Binger Receives 2018 Glenn J. Winuk Humanitarian Service Award

Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program Circuit Director Deborah Moore (left) and Holland & Knight Attorney Kevin Cox present Dorothy 'Dot' Binger with the Glenn J. Winuk Humanitarian Service Award on Tuesday, September 11, 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida.
Photo: gal2.org

On Tuesday, September 11, 2018, veteran guardian ad litem volunteer Dorothy "Dot" Binger was presented with the Glenn J. Winuk Humanitarian Service Award. This accolade is bestowed by Tallahassee law firm Holland & Knight every September 11th to honor "those who dedicate their time to serve others in the community."

A volunteer with our program for twenty-nine years, Binger has previously received the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award and the Dorothy "Dot" Binger Lifetime Achievement Award, named in her honor.

Binger's latest award comes with a $1,000 donation from Holland & Knight made to the charity of her choice. She has generously selected Guardian ad Litem Foundation Second Circuit, Inc., the not-for-profit volunteer organization founded in 1988 to support our program.

You can see three photographs from the awards ceremony. In addition, Binger's latest accolade was featured in an article published in the Tallahassee Democrat.

The article is presented below in case you missed it. Thank you to the Democrat for sharing our program with their readers.

Tallahassee woman Dorothy Binger receives 9-11 Glenn J. Winuk Humanitarian Service Award
by Nada Hassanein

Tallahassee Democrat
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Dorothy "Dot" Binger's 29 years serving in the guardian ad litem program for children are being recognized today as she receives the annual Glenn J. Winuk Humanitarian Service Award.

The award is issued every year on Sept. 11, National Day of Service and Remembrance and honors those who dedicate their time to serve others in the community — either through consistent volunteering throughout the years like Binger, or in a "one-time heroic act."

The award is named after New York-based attorney Glenn J. Winuk, who died during the Sept. 11 attacks while assisting as a volunteer firefighter and EMT.

Holland & Knight, a Tallahassee law firm of which Winuk was a partner, created the award to honor the late attorney. The law firm will donate $1,000 to a charity of Binger's choice.

As a guardian ad litem, Binger, 94, has committed to neglected and abused children, offering support for them during the complexities of court trials they've had to endure as kids. She was also recognized as a 2012 Trailblazer by the Oasis Center for Women and Girls.

"Anyone who sees this petite, dynamic 94-year-old woman," said Deborah Moore, guardian ad litem director, "are inspired to redouble their efforts on behalf of children who have experienced abuse and neglect in the Second Judicial Circuit."

Moore nominated Binger for the award, saying she is a "role model and inspiration." She added, "I continue to be amazed at her unwavering energy, compassion and devotion."

Two other finalists were also recognized Tuesday.

Ronald Burger, who spent 49 years in public service, including in the Peace Corps, the American Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Disaster Medical System.

Col. Grant Slayden, trial court administrator for the Second Judicial Circuit who retired last month from the U.S. Army after 32 years of service, according to a press release. He deployed on search-and-rescue missions in South Florida following Hurricane Irma.

Reach Nada Hassanein at nhassanein@tallahassee.com or on Twitter @nhassanein_.

New Volunteer Training In Wakulla County and Our Program On WTXL-TV

New Event

We regularly host, sponsor and support a variety of events that provide community outreach, increase awareness of our program, help recruit new volunteers, raise funds and furnish training to our volunteer guardians ad litem. The following event was added to our calendar.

You can also browse and access events on our calendar grid.

Our Program On WTXL-TV

Our program and the upcoming new volunteer training in Wakulla County were recently featured on ABC 27 News on WTXL-TV. You can watch the video segment or read a transcript below.

Thank you to WTXL for sharing our program with their viewers.

Volunteers needed for Big Bend Guardian ad Litem program
by WTXL-TV

ABC 27 News
Thursday, August 16, 2018

WAKULLA COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) - Hundreds of children are tied to court cases in the Big Bend.

The Second Judicial Circuit says it needs more volunteers to advocate for them.

It probably isn't the first place you'd take a kid to have fun, but for some, the courtroom is part of their lives.

"While their parents are going through dependency court issues, we are here to make sure that they're not overlooked," said Taylor Tachell, who's a volunteer recruiter for the Guardian ad Litem program.

The Guardian ad Litem program vouches for needs like food, clothing and education, sometimes therapy.

"These children are our future, and these children are all children who have either been abused or neglected in their life," said Tachell.

And the cases just keep coming, almost double what they've been in recent months.

Right now, there are more than 580 children who need a guardian. Each of them has one, but some of these guardians are covering more than one case and more than one child.

"What you give as a volunteer is returned to you many times over by what you get out of that service," said Rachel Pienta, the president-elect of the Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce.

The Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce wants residents to think about signing up. We met the president-elect in Tallahassee, where she said half of the county's residents work.

"People are working eight, nine, ten-hour days or longer," said Pienta. "How much time is left over to volunteer?"

Guardians ad litem typically spend eight to ten hours a month on a case and it doesn't all have to be in court.

"You can take the children out for lunch or to the park, something like that," said Tachell.

An escape from an unfamiliar place, but having a familiar face next to them could make that process a little more bearable.

The program will spend two Saturdays in Wakulla County next month for training, but volunteers are needed in several surrounding counties. You can find out more information about how to volunteer here.

Fifteen New Continuing Education Events, Staff Directory Update and Our Program In Print

New Events

We regularly host, sponsor and support a variety of events that provide community outreach, increase awareness of our program, help recruit new volunteers, raise funds and furnish training to our volunteer guardians ad litem. The following events were added to our calendar.

You can also browse and access events on our calendar grid.

Staff Directory Update

Our staff directory on the Contact page has been updated to reflect a recent personnel change.

Child's Best Interest Attorney Ian Carnahan has departed. We thank Ian for his service and wish him the best with his future endeavors.

In Print

An article written by Volunteer Recruiter Sara Urban recently appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat. The article is reproduced below.

Thank you to the Tallahassee Democrat for sharing our program with their readers.

Opioid crises weighs on Guardian ad Litem program
by Sara Urban

Tallahassee Democrat
Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Each day a child is a victim of abuse or neglect. April was Child Abuse Prevention Month. During the month, the nation focused on child abuse prevention and the goal for all children to have a safe, healthy nurturing childhood. The Guardian ad Litem Program works every day to achieve that goal.

"Every child deserves a safe, healthy and permanent home. Every child deserves a great childhood," said GAL Program Circuit Director Deborah Moore.

The GAL Program is volunteer-based, and advocates in court and in the community for children who have experienced abuse and neglect.

"We work with our advocacy team to achieve better outcomes for these children and families," said Moore.

According to the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association, neglect is responsible for more than 61 percent of children who are removed from their parent's care and placed in the child welfare system. A major cause of neglect is parental substance abuse issues. More and more children are coming into the child welfare system. Many of them are victims of the drug and opioid epidemic.

"It isn't about a desire to care for their children. Substance abuse issues take away these parents' ability to care for their children," says Child Advocacy Manager Supervisor Tammy Harris. "They are unable to provide basic needs for their children, from food to personal care to supervision."

Day after day, Harris sees families in crisis due to substance abuse. She sees kids come into the child welfare system who have suffered because their parents have failed to care for them. Some are malnourished. Some do not have clean clothes. Some are found all alone.

"Unfortunately by the time we see these children and families, trauma has already occurred. Our team does its best to ensure the children do not experience additional trauma," said Harris.

The team does this by working with child welfare partners to ensure resources are provided to the family to treat the substance abuse issues and encourage the parents to get the help they need.

"I want our families to heal. I want our parents to be able to deal with their issues and reunify with their children," said volunteer advocate Maria Augustyniak. "If by providing support I can help that happen, then what could be a better use of my time?"

The GAL advocacy team, which includes a volunteer advocate, Child Advocate Manager and Child Best Interest Attorney, makes sure these children receive the services they need to mitigate the trauma they have experienced. Child abuse and neglect affect physical, intellectual and social development.

The children are also at a higher risk of developing substance abuse issues themselves or becoming re-victimized as adults.

"It's about helping one child at a time and ensuring they have the chance of a brighter future," said Augustyniak.

The GAL Program, thanks to its nonprofit Guardian ad Litem Foundation 2nd Circuit, is able to provide for the needs of the children and families it serves. Harris says many days will find her shopping for clothes and diapers.

"These children come in sometimes with nothing," said Harris. "We do our best to help meet their needs."

The ultimate goal is to help these children and families before trauma occurs. The GAL Program supports Prevent Child Abuse Florida and Child Abuse Prevention Month. Both stress the importance of recognizing warning signs and providing front end support and resources.

"The more resources and interventions we provide theses families before abuse or neglect occurs, the better. My wish is no child ever suffers abuse or neglect," said Moore.

Unfortunately, Moore realizes with the drug crisis more and more children will be victims of abuse and neglect. In the last two years, the number of children entering the child welfare system in Florida has increased by 14 percent. The local circuit has also seen increase in children coming into service.

Moore says the program and its trained volunteer advocates, who are community members who have decided to get involved and make a difference, will continue to be there for these children and families.

"We will not stop," said Moore. "Our volunteer advocates and our team will continue to advocate and work so every child can have a positive childhood and therefore a brighter future."

To learn more on how you can get involved, please visit www.gal2.org.

Sara Urban is the Volunteer Recruiter for the 2nd Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program.

In Print: Guardian ad Litem Serves Needs Of Abused Children

An article about our program recently appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat. The article is reproduced below.

Thank you to the Tallahassee Democrat for sharing our program with their readers.

Scan of newspaper article

Guardian ad Litem serves needs of abused, abandoned children
by Ellen Piekalkiewicz

Tallahassee Democrat
Monday, January 29, 2018

Try to imagine the unimaginable, a frightened child being removed from their home for the child's own safety. When this happens there is often no time to gather a child's belongings. They are taken to safety confused, alone, with nothing but the clothes on their back, no shoes and without so much as a toothbrush or underwear.

Enter the Guardian ad Litem Program. The Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program serves as a powerful voice on behalf of abused and neglected children in Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties. The Guardian ad Litem Program is part of a statewide coalition of community advocates and professional staff.

These children are real, and sadly, are seen on a regular basis.

Just recently, two siblings were removed from their parents who were addicted to drugs. They had lived under neglected circumstances without their most basic needs being met. They were removed from their home with tattered clothes and shoes held together with tape.

Their lives changed dramatically when they were provided with safe shelter and then met their Guardian ad Litem (GAL). Their GAL, thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Guardian ad Litem Foundation Second Circuit, was able to take the children shopping (something they had never done).

The children gratefully received new shoes and articles of clothing making their transition to their new environment that much easier to endure.

The Guardian ad Litem Foundation Second Circuit supports the Guardian ad Litem Program and is a charitable, not-for-profit organization. All of their efforts are performed by volunteers. Donations provide clothing and shoes, items for infants such as cribs and diapers, school supplies, food, housing and utility expenses, child care, after-school care, summer camps, and support the training of GAL volunteers and staff.

Without the community's assistance, these needs would go unfulfilled.

The community's help for these children makes a big difference in the quality of their lives. "Despite the incredible sadness surrounding these children, it is so meaningful that the GAL Program is able to bring some normalcy into their lives and even some joy," says Jennifer West, President of GALF2 and a Guardian ad Litem volunteer.

Consider becoming a GAL volunteer or making a contribution to this worthwhile effort. More information can be found at gal2.org.

Ellen Piekalkiewicz is the executive director of United Partners for Human Services. She has more than 25 years of experience working for nonprofits and federal agencies.

Our Program Featured on WFSU's Perspectives and in the Tallahassee Democrat

WFSU Perspectives

On Thursday, June 15, 2017, the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program was featured on an episode of Perspectives, a call-in radio program on 88.9 WFSU-FM.

Hosted by Tom Flanigan, the episode highlights our program and mission while featuring commentary from Volunteer Recruiter Sara Blumenthal and program volunteer Larry Carmichael.

You can listen to the episode by visiting the Perspectives website, download an MP3 of the audio or listen to the piece on YouTube, also embedded below.

Thank you to WFSU-FM for sharing our program with their listeners.

Tallahassee Democrat

An article about our program recently appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat. We are fortunate to have this article published to help us raise awareness of and support for our program.

The article is reproduced below. Thank you to the Tallahassee Democrat for sharing our program with their readers.

Scan of newspaper article

Guardian ad Litem seeks volunteers
by Ellen Piekalkiewicz

Tallahassee Democrat
Thursday, June 22, 2017

Retirement. It is a goal most of us look forward to, to a time when we no longer have to do what we must but can do what we want. Those achieving that goal find themselves with something new — free time.

A good way to fill this free time is to start a new adventure and get involved in your community. Throughout our community, there are hundreds of volunteer opportunities where retirees can make their time meaningful.

One of the best opportunities is volunteering with the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program.

The GAL Program is a volunteer based organization that changes the lives of abused and neglected children by ensuring their interests are heard and served in the court and community. Through the volunteer's advocacy, a child is able to find a safe and permanent home as soon as possible.

"Our volunteers make an impact daily through their advocacy," said 2nd Judicial Circuit GAL Program Circuit Director Deborah Moore. "Retired volunteers are valued in our program as they bring a wealth of work, life and volunteer experience."

Many retirees choose to join this program because they recognize the need and they can see the difference the program makes in the lives of these children and their families. Sometimes all it takes is that one person being there and caring to change the direction of a life.

Retirees, regardless of what career they may have had, can use their knowledge and life experience to help guide a child and family to a better future.

"What better use of my time then helping a child and family in need," said retired educator Larry Carmichael. "It has revitalized me and is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had."

The Guardian ad Litem adventure includes creating a relationship with a child and showing them someone cares, showing them there is someone they can trust and depend on. It is being there to advocate for them in courtroom, ensuring that they are heard. It is advocating for them in classroom and community, the same way many us of advocate for our own children.

"Just because I'm retired doesn't mean I'm done making a difference," said retiree Lynda Giordano. "I have seen and experienced life and I am grateful I can use that to help a youth in need."

To those looking for a way to make their time meaningful, to share your knowledge, consider being a voice for an abused and neglected child. The Guardian ad Litem program stands tall in the corner of every child who has suffered abuse or neglect.

Information for this article was provided by Sara Blumenthal, Volunteer Recruiter, Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program.

For more information, please visit their website www.gal2.org

Two New Events, Staff Directory and eForm Updates Plus Our Program In The Newspaper

New Events

We regularly host, sponsor and support a variety of events that provide community outreach, increase awareness of our program, help recruit new volunteers, raise funds and furnish training to our volunteer guardians ad litem. The following events were added to our calendar.

You can also browse and access events on our calendar grid.

Staff Directory and eForm Updates

Our staff directory on the Contact page and our Report to the Court eForm have been updated to reflect recent personnel changes.

Child Advocate Manager Zachary Lang has departed. We thank Zach for his service and wish him the best with his future endeavors.

In Print: Tallahassee Democrat

Two pieces about our program recently appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat. The articles are reproduced below.

Thank you to the Tallahassee Democrat for sharing our program with their readers.

Letter: Join volunteers to help protect children
by Deborah Moore

Tallahassee Democrat
Wednesday, April 26, 2017

April is National Child Abuse and Prevention month and National Volunteer Week is April 23–29. The Guardian ad Litem Program supports the national effort to raise awareness about child abuse and the impact a volunteer can make in our community. By working with volunteers to advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children in Leon, Gadsden, Wakulla, Jefferson, Franklin and Liberty counties, we have a role in giving every child the best chance of a permanent caring and loving family.

As we observe these two national events, we hope readers will join the Guardian ad Litem Program as volunteers to protect children and strengthen families. For details, visit www.GAL2.org or call 1-850-606-1213.

Deborah Moore, Circuit Director, Guardian ad Litem Program, deborah.moore@gal.fl.gov

IMA Golf Driving Range Fundraiser
Special to the Chronicle

Tallahassee Democrat
Thursday, April 27, 2017

Recently locals gathered to hit some golf balls while helping the Guardian ad Litem Program. The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) Florida State University Student Chapter and Sundberg, P.A. held its second annual Golf Driving Range Fundraiser on April 2nd in support of the program. Participants contributed gift cards. The Guardian ad Litem Program is a volunteer based program that advocates for abused and neglected children. IMA collected $450 worth of gift cards, including cards from Chick-Fil-A, Subway and AMC.

"Our volunteers appreciate the opportunity to use a gift card to take their Guardian ad Litem child out for a special treat and spend quality time together," said Guardian ad Litem Circuit Director Deborah Moore.

Scan of newspaper article

In Print: Recruitment Articles In The Tallahassee Democrat

Two articles about our program recently appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat. We are fortunate to have these articles published to help us raise awareness of and support for our program.

The articles are reproduced below. Thank you to the Tallahassee Democrat for sharing our program with their readers.

Guardian ad Litem offers training sessions
by Sara Blumenthal

Tallahassee Democrat
Monday, December 19, 2016

The Guardian ad Litem program will host a volunteer training starting Jan. 9 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Leon County Courthouse Annex at 1920 Thomasville Road.

The Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program is a volunteer-based organization that advocates for abused and neglected children within the court system and community.

"We are in need of community members to stand up for children in need," said GAL circuit director Deborah Moore. "We look forward to people joining us to make a difference in the life of a child."

Volunteers, who the program estimates spend 8 to 10 hours per month volunteering, ensure local children receive the services they need while in the child welfare system. They speak up for the children in the court, schools and community. Children who have a GAL advocate are more likely to find permanent safe home sooner and have a brighter, more successful future.

"The impact we have on our children and families is immense," said retired educator and GAL volunteer Carolyn Spooner. "I know every day I am making a difference. What more can you ask for?"

The six-night training will occur from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 9; Thursday, Jan. 12; Wednesday, Jan. 18; Thursday Jan. 19; Monday, Jan. 23 and Thursday, Jan. 26. During the training, community members will learn how to be effective advocates and discover ways to work to make a difference in the lives of local children who have been abused or neglected.

For more information or to learn how to get involved, people are encouraged to visit www.gal2.org or contact Sara Blumenthal at 850-606-1213 or sara.blumenthal@gal.fl.gov.

Scan of newspaper article

Letter: Guardian ad Litem program needs your help, your time
by Sara Blumenthal

Tallahassee Democrat
Tuesday, December 20, 2016

During this season of giving, one of the most precious gifts you can give to someone is your time. Time is a gift that is needed by so many in the community. There are a number of organizations whose volunteers make a difference every day. The Guardian ad Litem Program is one such.

We know the difference time can make. Guardians ad Litem advocate in the community and court system for local abused and neglected children. Volunteers spend 8 to 10 hours a month ensuring the best interests of the children are heard and served.

The dedication of these volunteers allows the children to have more positive outcomes and to find a permanent safe home sooner. The time spent shows these children that the community cares.

While we celebrate this season with friends and families, let us remember those not as fortunate. Let us remember that if we give our time and our heart, we can change that.

For more information on how you can help, visit www.GAL2.org or call 606-1213.

Sara Blumenthal, sara.blumenthal@gal.fl.gov

Scan of newspaper article

In Print: Volunteer Dorothy Binger Recognized By Governor Rick Scott, the Florida Cabinet and Volunteer Florida

On Tuesday, December 6, 2016, one of our outstanding volunteers was recognized by Governor Rick Scott, the Florida Cabinet and Volunteer Florida.

Those familiar with our program all certainly know or have heard of Dorothy "Dot" Binger, an award-winning volunteer with a heart of gold. During the agenda of the cabinet meeting, Binger was presented with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award, "Florida's official statewide volunteer recognition."

The official news release about Binger's recognition is reproduced below. You can also view a photograph from the event.

Governor Rick Scott and Volunteer Florida Present Champion of Service Award at Florida Cabinet Meeting
by Staff

flgov.com
Tuesday, December 6, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — During today's meeting of the Florida Cabinet, Governor Rick Scott and Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman awarded Dorothy "Dot" Binger with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award, Florida's official statewide volunteer recognition.

Governor Rick Scott said, "It is an honor to present Dot with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award today for her tremendous advocacy on behalf of neglected and abused children across Northwest Florida. We are thankful for her service."

Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman said, "Volunteer Florida is proud to recognize Dot for her tireless commitment to Florida's at-risk children. We are grateful for the opportunity to recognize her service to children and her passion for education."

About the Champion of Service: Dorothy Binger, better known as "Ms. Dot," is a Guardian ad Litem volunteer for six counties in Northwest Florida. Guardian ad Litem, part of a statewide coalition of community advocates and professional staff, provides a powerful voice on behalf of Florida's abused and neglected children. Dot has served as a Guardian ad Litem volunteer since 1989, serving for over 27 years and advocating for more than 60 children in Florida's Panhandle.

Dot was the third person hired in 1966 at Tallahassee Community College. Her passion for children and education inspired the Envision Credit Union to establish a student scholarship in honor of her work. The Dorothy Binger Scholarship has awarded over $400,000 in scholarship tuition to over 1,200 Tallahassee Community College students.

Volunteer Florida is Florida's lead agency for volunteerism and national service, administering more than $32 million in federal, state, and local funding to deliver high-impact national service and volunteer programs in Florida. Volunteer Florida promotes and encourages volunteerism to meet critical needs across the state. Volunteer Florida also serves as Florida's lead agency for volunteers and donations before, during, and after disasters. For more information, visit: www.volunteerflorida.org.

In Print: Guest Speaker and Letter to the Editor

Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program Circuit Director Deborah Moore talking as guest speaker during the National Adoption Day Celebration on Friday, November 18, 2016 at the Leon County Human Services Center in Tallahassee, Florida
Photo: gal2.org

Last month, Circuit Director Deborah Moore took part in several events for National Adoption Month. One such event was the National Adoption Day Celebration on Friday, November 18, 2016 at the Leon County Human Services Center in Tallahassee, Florida, where Moore was featured as a guest speaker (see photograph).

In addition, Moore was also published in the Tallahassee Democrat by way of a letter to the editor. Her letter is reproduced below.

Thank you to the Leon County Human Services Center and Tallahassee Democrat for sharing our program with the community.

Letter: Celebrate National Adoption Month
by Deborah Moore

Tallahassee Democrat
Wednesday, November 23, 2016

November is National Adoption Month. The celebration is sponsored by the Children's Bureau in collaboration with AdoptUSKids and Child Welfare Information Gateway. The Guardian ad Litem Program supports the national effort to raise awareness about the need for adoptive families.

This year, special attention is on helping youth ages 15–18 in need of the emotional support a family connection can provide and the youth deserve. Without the family connection, youth often age out of foster care without anyone to provide guidance and support, leaving them subject to homelessness and poverty.

The Guardian ad Litem Program works with volunteers in the community to advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children in Leon, Gadsden, Wakulla, Jefferson, Franklin and Liberty counties.

I am so proud of our part to ensure every child has the best chance of a permanent caring and loving family. This year, as we observe National Adoption Month, I hope readers will join with our program to reflect on our obligation to provide lifelong connections for youth.

For more information on how you can help, visit www.GAL2.org or call 850-606-1213.

Deborah Moore, Circuit Director, Guardian ad Litem Program

In Print: Tallahassee Magazine

A piece featuring our circuit director and one of our projects was published in the latest issue of Tallahassee Magazine.

The article discusses back to school and the Foundation for Leon County Schools school supply drive befitting our program's children and youth. It also mentions the Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII) Beyond the Basics project and quotes Circuit Director Deborah Moore.

The main text of the article is reproduced below along with a copy of the magazine page.

Thank you to Tallahassee Magazine for sharing our program with their readers.

The Drive For Student Preparedness
by Nina Rodríguez-Marty

Tallahassee Magazine
July–August 2016 (Volume 39, Number 4), Page 30

The annual return to school occasions a familiar series of rituals. Remember lining up freshly sharpened pencils beside blank notebooks and fiddling with the zippers of your brand new backpack, the year's cartoon obsession stamped on the front? And the zenith of the season was reuniting with classmates and sharing your summer adventures with them.

It's a wonderful time of the year. For some.

The reality is, this sweetly prefatory time is out of reach for many children and families. When factoring the price of basic necessities, as well as any additional fees and specialty items, school supplies can total a huge expense. Not everyone can afford to pay such a price.

School-supply drives work to equip students in need for a successful academic year. Though year-round efforts, these community-wide collections pick up serious momentum in the late summer months. And getting involved is easier than you think.

Stop by the Bloxham Building, 727 S. Calhoun St., or any Leon County public school with new donations for The Foundation for Leon County Schools' Back to School Supply Drive. Or launch your own campaign. Contributions can go directly to the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program, which advocates for abused and neglected children in Leon County and surrounding areas.

Requested supplies include composition books, pencils and, of course, backpacks.

"Elementary, middle and high schools have different supply needs," said Leon County project manager Jamie Holleman. "But everybody needs a backpack."

No time for a trip to the store? The Foundation for Leon County Schools welcomes tax-deductible monetary contributions. Simply make your check payable to The Foundation for Leon County Schools and indicate that it's for the Back to School Supply Drive.

Guardian ad Litem also offers an easy alternative to physical donations. In conjunction with the nonprofit foundation Child Advocates II, Inc., Beyond the Basics is an ongoing online effort that accepts financial and gift card contributions. While paper and pencil might be the cornerstone of academia, what a child needs is not always spelled out on a supply list.

"We have some children and youth who are coming into care right before school starts and they need clothes, period," said Deborah Moore, circuit director of Guardian ad Litem. "They need to make sure that they start the year off right with outfits that they're comfortable in and can be proud of. That's really where the money goes."

Image of Tallahassee Magazine, Volume 39, Number 4, Page 30

Tallahassee Magazine, Volume 39, Number 4, Page 30