All three of Katherine Fils’ children were starting out in new schools. And this year, she was determined to continue her annual tradition.
“Every first day of school, for the first week,” she said, “you have new clothes.”
Ms. Fils wanted to make sure her children – Anthony, 17; Jalen, 14; And Jazmine, 11, can pick up new outfits and feel confident in her first days at the new schools in Staten Island.
The family had been living in an apartment in Brooklyn a few years ago, but after some problems arose there, Ms. Fils moved her family to a homeless shelter. Soon after he left, the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the city and schooling went virtual.
Ms. Fils, 33, worked hard to keep her children in good spirits. He played board games and did puzzles.
“Something new or different,” said Ms. Fils, “just so they can take their mind off everything.”
But the strains mounted in the shelter. Children had trouble connecting to the Internet and were sometimes unable to listen to lessons.
“It was a complete battle,” Ms. Fils said of navigating school online.
On top of the technical problems, Ms. Fils was taking her children to live with family members while she had work as a home health aide. She would wake them up at 5 or 6 to go to relatives’ homes before their shifts started at 8. About a year later, Ms. Fils’s children were exhausted, and she decided that she would have to quit her job and help her out at school. -Time.
“It wasn’t easy, because then you have to think, you’re losing money,” she said. “You’re making it worse.”
In June 2021, Ms. Fils and her family were able to live in an apartment on Staten Island. Ms. Fils said her children were particularly excited about creating a kitchen they didn’t have at the shelter – all of her kids know how to cook, and Anthony especially loves inventing new recipes, Ms. Phils said.
As summer broke, Ms. Fils was relieved that her children would once again go to school in person, but the cost of supplies and clothing plummeted.
“At first I was fine, thank goodness they got a chance to go back,” Ms. Fils said. “But then I was like, Danger, now I have to buy school supplies. And as they get older, the supplies keep getting bigger.”
This year, recognizing the need for the families they work with, Children’s Aid, one of nine organizations supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, joined hands to distribute Target gift cards to help schools. $150,000 set aside from the fund. Expenditure.
“We wanted to make sure we got the cards very quickly, and got them in the hands of families very quickly,” said Georgia Booth, executive vice president of child support. About 900 families received gift cards totaling $100 to $500.
“Many of them appreciated that we offered them as support, rather than expressing their needs specifically,” Ms Boothe said. “They were incredibly grateful for that.”
Ms. Fils received a $300 Target gift card from Children’s Aid, which she used to buy school supplies and new clothes for her children. She said that Anthony was particularly excited about NASCAR T-shirts, and Jalen looked forward to wearing tops featuring anime characters.
Alyssa Tucker, 29, who received a $100 gift card, was grateful that helping kids made the most sense for her family to spend on her. She already had school supplies and clothes, so she bought her 5-year-old daughter, Autumn, a pumpkin-shaped bucket, trick-or-treating. And in preparation for Christmas, she bought Barbies, which she hid in her closet.
Debrina Mitchell was among the many parents in New York City concerned about her return to in-person school.
In the spring, when her 9-year-old son, Elijah, was on his way back to class, he realized he didn’t have new clothes for him. “I didn’t expect her to go back to school,” said Ms. Michelle, 32.
Ms. Mitchell told a counselor at the HOPE program, a job training program she participated in, about her concerns. The counselor helped him get in touch with the Community Service Society, another organization supported by The Fund. With its help, Ms. Michelle bought Elijah for $330.91 in new clothes.
“I’m very happy about it,” said Ms. Mitchell. The new clothing, including T-shirts with Spider-Man and dinosaurs on them, made Elijah personally feel “very excited” about returning to school. Ms Michele said she is particularly proud of the importance her son gives to her new clothes.
“I was happy with the fact that he appreciated it,” she said. “There it meant it was worth asking for help.”