Group goes back to the basics to help SHS teachers

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(Photo courtesy JACINDA BOKOWY) Members of CARE, a parent group for Sandpoint High School, operate the Chuck Wagon Barbecue at football games to raise funds for the group’s programs throughout the year, such as the Get the Basics program in August and assisting with the student of the month program.

SANDPOINT — When it comes to basic classroom needs, such as paper and pencils, many teachers resort to spending their own money to meet these needs — which is where CARE comes in.

Founded in 2012 by two Sandpoint High School parents, Caring Adults Recognizing Excellence is a nonprofit parent group at SHS. According to its mission statement, the goal of CARE is to strengthen the school, students, teachers and staff through appreciation.

Jacinda Bokowy, president of CARE, said the group is not a PTA or PTO, but is a parent organization. No dues are collected and there is no pressure to participate, she said.

"It's really designed to be simple," Bokowy said. "We recognize that everyone has different interests, abilities and time constraints."

Currently, 300 people are signed up as parent volunteers.

CARE has several programs its members are involved in, and they are currently in the midst of the "Get the Basics" program to provide teachers with simple items, such as pencils, markers, tissue, hand sanitizer and more. Bokowy recently sent out an email to SHS teachers to find out what they need. The teachers responded and, apparently, sniffly noses are not just for elementary students with a total of 65 boxes of Kleenex requested. 

"What we try to do, for the CARE program, is keep it basic," Bokowy said. "We are not trying to supply overhead projectors. We are really trying to keep it to the fundamentals, what the kids really need." 

To get the needed items, Bokowy gathers the information from the teachers and then sends an email out to all the CARE members. Those who can help out respond and purchase items or give cash. Since CARE is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, they can get receipts for donations. Any items still needed are purchased through funds raised by the group through the "Chuck Wagon" barbecue.

The mobile barbecue was built by CARE several years ago and is the only source of funds for the group. The "Chuck Wagon" is a staple at all local high school football games, and is rented out for big private events, such as weddings and reunions.

Bokowy said a list of recommended supplies is provided to parents at the beginning of the school year, but the lists are not particularly geared to what the students and teachers will need for the year. In elementary school, she said, it is easier for a teacher to know what they need for their class throughout the year, but it is more difficult when students reach high school and have a different teacher for each class.

"I don't know if that's the exact reason why they don't do those (in high school)," Bokowy said. "... I think a lot of kids come to school and they just don't have the needed supplies."

Although CARE's goal is to provide the very basic needs, they do help out with some special requests. The cultural anthropology teacher at SHS, for example, does a project with his class where he needs several white bed sheets for the students to cut up and make flags. CARE reached out to La Quinta Inn and have been able to provide the sheets needed.

Other events organized by CARE include the new student barbecue in August, a free barbecue for all new SHS students and their families during the high school orientation; baked goods for all monthly staff meetings and other events throughout the year; staff appreciation events; administration assistance, such as helping out with college application day or SATs; and partnering with SHS administration to host the Student of the Month program in which CARE provides a pizza party for the nine nominated students and a Bulldog sweatshirt for the overall winner.

Anyone interested in becoming involved in CARE should email CARE@lposd.org.

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