By Barbara Smith
Photos by SDPD Community Resource Officer Jennifer Gregory, Courtesy of One San Diego and Katherine Eve Photography
Many San Diego school children’s lives got a little brighter last week, thanks to a joint effort of One San Diego, a non-profit dedicated to creating a unified San Diego with strong communities; the San Diego Police Department, Southeastern Division; a host of parents, and, yes, a group of enthusiastic student volunteers, all of whom pooled their energy and resources to make a positive difference during these troubling times.
Cesar Chavez Elementary and Audubon Elementary Schools were hubs of excitement on Thursday, April 30, where SDPD officers greeted some of San Diego’s young and most needy students with colorful backpacks filled with school supplies, and fun educational materials. Also to be included are Walmart gift cards for families to use for the purchase of food and basic necessities.
The distribution was an extension of One San Diego’s “We Have Your Back” program, which earlier this school year distributed 3700 backpacks to San Diego City Schools students. As an extension of this service, says Dena DiSarro, One San Diego’s Executive Director, 300 children who were identified as ‘unsheltered,’ were invited to participate. “These children might be living in motels or they may even be living in cars, and they would not otherwise be able to get these items.” Katherine Faulconer, wife of Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and who serves as honorary chair of One San Diego, was among the many who helped with the backpack distribution.
The mission of One San Diego is to find ways for communities to connect, and to that end, school children from the Del Sur community, “built” the backpacks, filling them with pencils, pens, books, educational games, and also with kindness notes. “Honestly, a lot of moms reached out to me and said our kids are home, and, yes, we’re doing distance learning, but we would love for them to do something to help them understand how other kids might be struggling and not have school supplies,” added DiSarro. “We’re hoping we can continue this because we know one time is not going to be sufficient.”
For the San Diego Police Department officers who met and mingled with the children and their families, the event was heartwarming and uplifting. “We want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our Juvenile Services Team, Community Relations Officers and our school administrators for making this distribution event possible,” said Lt. Al Ambito, San Diego Police Dept., Southeastern Division. “The 300 backpacks from One San Diego will provide essential school needs during these challenging times. Even with distance learning, our children still need essential supplies to support their academic success. It also helps our hard-working parents and guardians, so they don’t have to worry about going to the stores to buy these school supplies. They can just focus on taking care of their families to ensure they stay safe and healthy at home. We are all in this together and with each other’s support, we will get through this together.”