It’s tough being a poor kid in Fairfax County – and it’s even worse if your classmates find out about your situation because you come to school without the necessary supplies your teacher requested. Luckily, though, that’s where Britepaths comes in.
The Fairfax-based nonprofit is providing school supplies and backpacks to 2,500 area students through its Back-to-School Program, but it needs the community’s support to help with its efforts. And when it comes right down to it, the students who’ll benefit are everyone’s neighbors.
“It is incredible to think about the fact that Fairfax County is one of the five wealthiest counties in the country – and yet, one in 14 children in our community lives in poverty,” said Britepaths Executive Director Lisa Whetzel. “The families of students at our partner schools are having trouble paying rent and putting food on the table. So for them, the prospect of finding funds to purchase school supplies is stressful.”
In the Fairfax High School Pyramid alone, backpacks and school supplies will be given to students attending Daniels Run, Providence, Eagle View and Willow Springs elementaries, plus Fairfax High, as well as Fairfax Adult High School. This goal can be accomplished via donations from local individuals, businesses, groups and organizations to Britepaths’ Back to School Program through Aug. 31.
Via a partnership with Herndon-based Campus Survival Kits, Britepaths is able to maximize cash contributions to purchase all the necessary supplies, plus new high-quality backpacks, at a steep discount. Each donation of $25 will provide supplies and a backpack for one student. Organizations may also choose to sponsor or co-sponsor all students at a specific, Britepaths’ partner school in the Fairfax High Pyramid.
People may donate funds or register to sponsor a school at Britepaths’ secure online donation page: https://britepathsbts23.givesmart.com. Or they may send checks payable to Britepaths to 3959 Pender Drive, Suite 200, Fairfax, VA 22030. Write “BTS23” on the memo line. For more information, call 703-273-8829 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Already, some organizations have risen to the challenge and are lending a hand. Whetzel said Britepaths is grateful to PenFed Credit Union for sponsoring students at Daniels Run, Jim McKay Chevrolet for sponsoring Willow Springs students, and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax for co-sponsoring students at Bailey’s Upper Elementary. She also praised the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia/Avalon Charitable Fund for providing a generous grant to support the program.
“Community members who sponsor students in our Back-to-School campaign are doing so much more than providing supplies and backpacks,” said Whetzel. “They're helping young people whose lives can be stressful when school begins and giving them the confidence, dignity and tools that they need to succeed.”
And the business donors who are already stepping up are happy to do so.
“Our personal connections to Willow Springs Elementary School and knowledge of the work that Britepaths does made it an easy decision to become a sponsor for Britepaths’ Back to School program,” explained Kathy McKay, president of Jim McKay Chevrolet. “We hope the community will join us in supporting this effort to ensure that students are ready to learn at the start of the school year.”
In 2024, Britepaths will celebrate 40 years of providing help, hope and a path forward for Fairfax County and Northern Virginia residents experiencing a financial crisis. In FY 2023, the organization served 7,999 households, impacting the lives of 11,555 people.
Throughout the year, Britepaths relies on funding and volunteer support from businesses, individuals, local organizations and faith communities to provide services that stabilize families via supplemental food and financial assistance, workforce development coaching and IT training, financial education and other programs. Visit britepaths.org.