Originally Published: July 23, 2015 6:01 a.m.
PRESCOTT - Les Lee is a disabled father of three who for the past five years has relied on the Fair Start program to help him cover the costs of new backpacks and school supplies.
In thanks for the community generosity, Lee, 53, and his children, Patience, 13, Jobie, 12, and Richard, 11, volunteer to help with the project, be it packing the backpacks or helping on the distribution date that this year is Saturday, July 25, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Prescott United Methodist Church, 505 West Gurley St. Games, crafts and refreshments will be served.
This year, the church's Shoes for the Shepherd campaign allowed for each of the low-income families eligible to participate in the project - sponsored through the Coalition for Compassion and Justice in collaboration with the Quad-City Interfaith Council - to be given gift cards to buy school shoes.
Most of the families eligible for this project are identified through school districts; the students are often those who are able to receive free and reduced lunches.
This project "has been real good to us," Lee said, noting his financially strapped family has relied on the Coalition to help cover other living expenses in the past.
"Miss Diane is the best," Lee said of the CCJ's special projects director Diane Iverson.
The Lee children appreciate that through this program they can be equipped on the first day with new supplies their limited family resources would otherwise be unable to afford.
As it is, Lee said he will be juggling some bills so he can attire each of the three children with a new school outfit.
Like most parents, Lee does not want his children to be anything less but ready, and excited, for the start of the new school year. New clothes, backpacks and school supplies are part of that formula, he and national education experts agree.
Lee said he finds it heartwarming that this community is willing to provide such an outreach to so many families who simply need that extra help. It is why he and his children do whatever they can to give back.
"I don't ever want to take away from others because I know there are some who are in far worse shape," Lee said.
The good news for Lee and others in similar financial circumstances is that Prescott is such a giving community that last year the project was able to benefit just over 1,200 families.
Asked how they feel about the program, Richard said, "It really helps."
"Awesome,' Patience concluded.
Anyone wishing to help with this project can contact Open Door at 928-445-8382 or email Diane Iverson at diane.iverson@YavapaiCCJ.org.
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