The Staff Advisory Council (SAC) at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the campus bookstore are working together this January to collect donations of school supplies for children at schools in the Omaha area as part of the Salvation Army and KETV Newswatch 7’s “7 Can Help Kids Back-to School Backpack Program”.
UNO’s contribution will be erasers, which will be stuffed into backpacks along with supplies donated by other participating organizations, said Suzanne Withem, treasurer of the Staff Advisory Council. As treasurer, she also heads the activities and service committee.
Kim Kronschnabel, a former member of the SAC, helps to coordinate the donations. Kronschnabel said the Salvation Army offers a variety of options that the SAC could collect and donate. She said UNO chooses to collect erasers because it’s been the most popular item for the past 10 years UNO has been part of the program.
Organizers at UNO also chose to donate erasers because the bookstore and SAC cannot accept cash donations. It’s easier to visualize 7,000 erasers than to visualize school supplies in general, Withem said. The goal is to raise 3,500 erasers in January and 3,500 in August.
UNO students can help disadvantaged children in Omaha by buying and donating erasers in the campus bookstore, Withem said. The erasers are selling at five for a dollar.
Kronschnabel said UNO and Creighton decided to team up and create a Collegiate Coalition when UNO opened the idea up to other post-secondary institutions.
“Previous members included UNO, Creighton, Kaplan University, Bellevue University, College of St. Mary and Grace University,” Kronschnable said.
Kronschnabel said the program helps more than 10,000 kids every year.
“Without the necessary basic school supplies, children are at a major disadvantage for being able to learn,” Kronschnabel said. “The members of UNO SAC and members of the Collegiate Coalition find this to be unacceptable and seek to help in making certain that all students have those basic supply needs met. A good education is essential to a promising future.”
Withem said, every August, the SAC volunteers at the Salvation Army center at 3612 Cuming St. There, volunteers help stuff backpacks with school supplies.
“They have these huge pallets full of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of backpacks,” Withem said.
The backpack program is one of SAC’s main service activities, but it is not the only one.
“This year, we’re hoping to still be able to partner with Maverick Food Pantry to do some fundraising with them,” Withem said. The fundraiser will be in the spring.
There is a thermometer chart in the bookstore showing progress toward the program’s goal of 3,500 erasers. So far, about 1,750 erasers have been donated, said Andrea Dunn, assistant manager of the UNO bookstore.
“We had the lovely thermometer image created to give a visual to students and staff on campus to know where we are,” Dunn said.
Dunn said that Withem and Eric Hager, former manager of the UNO bookstore, planned on “re-energizing” the eraser drive at UNO.
“It’s a good program. Eric would go with several of our students and stuff backpacks down at the Salvation Army,” Dunn said. “There’s a lot of good energy there, and it’s a really cool way for the university to connect with the community.”
“As UNO, that’s one of our slogans – ‘Omaha is your campus’ – not just UNO,” Dunn said.
* This article has been updated to correct incorrect information.