---- — DERRY — The Upper Room, a Family Resource Center, has been holding monthly donation drives in 2013. Each month, the agency advertises different items in demand - from baby products, to food for its food pantry, office supplies personal hygiene items, school supplies, cleaning items, and more.
“People always ask how they can help,” executive director Kimberly Bavaro said. “This made it easy for members of our community to know what they could donate.”
T-Bones Great American Eatery, a longtime supporter of The Upper Room, heard of the donation drive, and wanted to help in a large way.
They organized a “prize wheel promotion” where, for 12 days, diners paid $5 to spin a prize wheel for a chance of winning up to $50 in T-Bones gift certificates.
The restaurant raised nearly $16,000 and used those funds to purchase a number of items for The Upper Room, the bulk of which were school supplies.
The school supplies were distributed to 154 families that The Upper Room serves. Recipients lived in Derry, Londonderry, Chester, Manchester, Hampstead, Salem, Danville and Raymond. In addition to pens, pencils, binders and more traditional school supplies, recipients received backpacks, back-to-school clothing, shoes and jackets.
“These items gave our families the peace of mind that they would be fully equipped to manage the upcoming back-to-school transition,” said Brenda Guggisberg, program coordinator for The Upper Room’s GED Preparation Class. “Families called in thanking us and telling us that without these gracious donations, they would have had no idea how they were going to get their children ready for school.”
The donations make a big difference for the children who receive them, she said.
“The kids who went back to school with the supplies they needed felt relieved to not have to worry that they would be the only student without proper supplies, including clothing and shoes,” Guggisberg said. “This sets a tone that school is important, helps students be prepared to learn, and it reduces the stigma that many kids today feel if they aren’t fully equipped. It gave them a boost to their self esteem.”
The donors had fun doing it, according to restaurant personnel.
“We had a lot of fun with the Upper Room promotion. It was for a great cause and our guests were very supportive,” said Melissa Grondin, general manager at T-Bones in Derry. “Many even asked if we’d bring it back. We were able to provide a ton of goodwill for the community.”
The supplies T-Bones donated not only helped The Upper Room, but also Family Promise, juvenile probation and parole officers, school social workers, and the Boys and Girls Club.
“We had an excess of supplies,” Bavaro said, “so we were able to reach out to other organizations to share the items, and allow them to support the people they were serving. We are all so very appreciative of the support T-Bones offered us.”
To learn more about The Upper Room and its programs, visit urteachers.org.
In December, the agency is seeking donations of gift cards that could be used for participants and fundraising efforts.