The donation, funded by Ocean State Job Lots Charitable Foundation, was made recently at Job Lots Cranston store where representatives from PCI and its parent organization, Family Service of Rhode Island, shopped for backpacks, umbrellas, ponchos, sunglasses, snacks, and many other items the children could use on their daily 30-minute walk. Also donated were mattress and pillow covers, food storage containers and other assorted household products to promote healthy home living and help alleviate chronic health problems such as asthma that may prevent a child from attending school.
The Walking School Bus program began last year to address the growing problem of chronic student absenteeism. Rhode Island is one of only six U.S. states tracking this issue*. Among the 477 students attending Mary E. Fogarty Elementary School in Providence, approximately 30% miss one month or more of school each year for various reasons such as lack of transportation or parents with health issues that prevent them from walking, among other reasons, states Michelle Cortes-Harkins, vice president of Urban Initiatives for Family Service of Rhode Island.
Currently, Family Service of Rhode Island transports with the Walking School Bus between 20 and 25 students to and from Fogarty Elementary every day. Ocean State Job Lot is a big part of our community, and they have everything we need in one convenient place, Ms. Cortes-Harkins adds. By next year, we are planning to expand our efforts to other Providence-area schools, with the help of volunteers and the generosity of businesses like Job Lot.
Job Lots Cranston Store Manager Mike Reardon was on hand throughout the shopping trip to help PCI find all the items they needed and to make additional suggestions. Its important for kids to attend school daily in order to succeed, comments Mr. Reardon. PCI and Family Service of Rhode Island provide this wonderful program to help children get to and from school consistently and safely, and Job Lot is more than happy to contribute by donating what we can to encourage participation and help fight absenteeism.
Through its Charitable Foundation, Job Lot has established a long history of philanthropic leadership in the communities it serves. In addition to their work with the Providence Childrens Initiative and Family Service of Rhode Island, the Foundation also supports charities and causes including but not limited to medical and educational institutions, food banks and pantries, U.S. veterans and military activities, disaster relief efforts, the performing arts, special needs children and foster children.