Madison (11), Felix (9) and their older brother Andrew (not pictured) received school supplies from the community after their mom posted on Facebook. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Madison (11), Felix (9) and their older brother Andrew (not pictured) received school supplies from the community after their mom posted on Facebook. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Online community rallies to help North Delta family start the school year right

Kauri Bendickson asked Facebook for advice, and ended up with new school supplies for her three kids

The start of school is looking bright and full of paper for a North Delta family that couldn’t afford school supplies.

On Monday, Aug. 28, Kauri Bendickson posted on the North Delta Community Corner, saying her family couldn’t afford to buy school supplies for three of her kids: Andrew, who is now in Grade 10 at Sands Secondary; Madison, who is in Grade 6 at McCloskey Elementary; and Felix, who is in Grade 4 at Gray Elementary.

Bendickson took to Facebook to ask about different resources that might be available for families struggling to stock up on binders and duotangs. Within three days, communities members donated everything the kids needed.

Andrew, Madison and Felix were “as thankful as kids could be,” Bendickson said.

“They all looked through it all and they were already starting to fight over who got what.”

They were “very excited. Especially Madison, because she loves getting new stuff and she loves school,” Bendickson said. “She was the most excited.”

Madison’s favourite donated item was nine-piece geometry set, decorated in black and white symbols.

“And we got a lot of paper,” she added.

Bendickson laughed. “I don’t think we’ll need more paper for several years.”

There were also binders, duotangs, pencils, pencil crayons, erasers and glue sticks.

“I think it’s cool that they wanted to help,” Madison said, arranging the supplies around her for a photo.

When Bendickson put the post on Facebook, she said she was expecting a few bits of advice, “but we weren’t expecting everybody to just be willing to chip in like that.”

“I was really surprised,” Bendickson said. “A lot of times you’ll have things on social media where people respond with criticism and judgment. I was kind of expecting some of that, so I’m very thankful we didn’t receive any sort of critiques.”

Bendickson, her husband Danny Whaley and the four kids — three school-age and one toddler — that make up their blended family can normally afford to buy school supplies.

Although the family qualifies as low-income — the median income in North Delta East, where Bendickson and her family live, is $81,000, while the bar for low income for a family of six is $54,281 before tax — they usually manage to save enough every month to pay for school supplies and even family vacations.

This year however, Whaley’s kids weren’t able to get home from visiting their mother in the United States, and Bendickson and Whaley had to scramble so they could get back to North Delta for the start of school.

“It just so happened that it took everything we had set aside, not just for the school supplies but … the savings we had set aside for the months of August, September and October,” Bendickson said.

“We just had a talk with the kids, and I said ‘We’re going to have to prioritize you guys having something to eat over school supplies,” she added.

“But, you know how it is for a kid. They’re going to compare stuff with their friends, everybody wants to see new school supplies — at least that’s how it was for me. So there was, you know, more than disappointment on their end.”

Bendickson and Whaley scoured the kids rooms, coming up with at least some of the supplies needed for the start of the school year. They were planning on getting the rest over the month of September — but didn’t have to thanks to the 33 different people who commented on Bendickson’s post, offering advice and supplies.

One of the places people suggested Bendickson go for help was the schools themselves. Although there isn’t a formal Delta School District program to subsidize school supplies, district communications and marketing manager Jen Hill said parents can talk to their kid’s teachers and school administration to get the supplies they need.

And, of course, there are often community members willing to help out as well.

At first, Bendickson said, her husband “didn’t really want to reach out because we’re fairly independent — we’ve been able to support ourselves with the kids so far. So reaching out … feels weird. Especially for something like school supplies, because it seems so basic.”

But “in hindsight, there’s so many good people in the community and they’re going to help,” she said.