Already Lehigh Community Services is gearing up for its annual giveaway of backpacks to needy students. That also includes some school supplies. Rae Nicely, the agency's executive director, said registration will be between June 2-13.
She's announcing the date a little earlier this year because there is a new requirement that must be met before a youngster can receive a free backpack.
"We are asking the families to bring in the child's report card. So now is the time to make sure you have it and it hasn't gotten lost. It doesn't make any difference what the grades are on the report card, but it is a necessary requirement this year to produce the report card, along with proof of identity and proof of your address in Lehigh Acres.
"It must show that the student is a Lehigh resident and has attended a Lehigh school," Nicely said.
"Those families who want to get a free backpack for their other children, must also bring in their report cards," she said. "The family as always must also show the amount of income for eligibility."
She noted that last year, there were 500 backpacks giving away, a record amount. But how many will be given this year depends as it always has, on the amount of backpacks that can be made available to Lehigh Community Services through donations.
Nicely said there are several clubs and organizations that step up to the plate in their giving, but she never knows for sure until they know how many backpacks can be purchased for the giveaway.
Nicely is a busy woman and is always working toward help people in Lehigh in various ways, from the giveaway of backpacks, food, helping to pay some utility bills, to Christmas toys.
But as a home for the United Way at her agency, she has been able to provide space for other groups in the county, who can be of service to Lehigh residents.
She bragged the other day about the money volunteers who helped Lehigh residents file their federal income taxes.
"We had more than a million dollars in refunds for Lehigh residents," she said. "Just think how much it means to Lehigh for that money to enter the economy here.
"That money passes through several avenues with purchases, wages, etc.," she said.
Nicely said one person received a refund of $40,000 (with a past time claimed, too) enough to pay off a student loan.
"Last year we had around 200 people who took advantage of our help in doing taxes. This year we had 570 families who had their taxes done by 20 volunteers who gave of their time that set a record.
"When I left at 8 p.m. on April 15, there were 21 people waiting to be helped and those volunteers were here until close to midnight to get everyone serviced by filing online," she said.
"Nothing could make me happier than to see people getting nice refunds and many of them were large."
She gave credit to Mary Meador, a math teacher at Gateway Charter School.
"She and her volunteers really wanted to do the best they could to get people a nice refund. She and her group of volunteers were just amazing." Nicely said.
"We have been helping people with their tax returns now for five years."
To receive the help, there were guidelines to follow concerning the amount of family income.