Balloons and high spirits filled the gymnasium of Lester Crawl Primary Center (18300 Greenbay Ave.) on the morning of Aug. 20. Teachers gathered with wide eyes and masks in every color to celebrate an event that should’ve taken place months ago, and to cheer on those who made it possible.
It was about to be Christmas in August for Lester Crawl.
Around 10 a.m., a brightly-colored, fully-stocked van pulled up, and the celebration began.
That morning, Lester Crawl became the second District 158 school in a year to receive a donation from Enchanted Backpack, a non-profit organization that provides needed supplies to “under-resourced” middle and elementary schools, according to their website. The organization delivered a van full of school supplies, winter coats, books and other products that will be used throughout this unprecedented school year.
Lester Crawl principal Dr. Kim Morley explained that this event had been a long time coming.
“The delivery was supposed to happen in April, but with everything going on it got delayed,” she said. “It’s wonderful to finally have them here. We’ll go through all this, and it’ll take us some time. This is great.”
District 158 superintendent Dr. Nathan Schilling was equally excited and grateful for the donations.
“They were able to work with our schedule and be super flexible,” he said of Enchanted Backpack’s willingness to schedule the delivery around restrictions in place due to COVID-19.
Enchanted Backpack volunteers and Lester Crawl custodial staff helped wheel in the donations from the organization’s van, and they were met with music, cheers and applause from a gym full of teachers — all of whom, according to Schilling, had had their health and temperatures verified earlier that morning. Once the donations were piled up against the wall, Morley addressed the Enchanted Backpack volunteers on behalf of the school to express her thanks.
“We are a small but mighty school,” she said. “All of our kids that come to this building have some kind of disadvantage, whether it’s home life or something else. This is going to help us supply our kids…Thank you to your sponsors, and thank you to everybody.”
Morley also took the time to publicly thank teacher Angela Okroi for being the one to fill out the application that resulted in Lester Crawl receiving the donation. According to the school’s website, Okroi applied in the fall of 2019.
”We’re very happy that they came,” Okroi said. “It was a little disappointing they couldn’t come in April, but the pandemic happened, so we completely understand. We had a big celebration planned—we were going to have a princess party and dress up with the kids, but things change and you just roll with the punches. I think we had a really good celebration with just staff.”
Morley said the two Enchanted Backpack volunteers were just as pleased with the smaller-scale celebration as the staff was.
“They made the comment that they’ve been driving since March, and they usually just come and drop the stuff off with nobody there,” Morley said. “We made sure they got celebrated today, and we’re the first ones who’ve done that. Even though we’re small, we celebrated this happening.”
Morley and Schilling said students will hopefully begin to return to in-person classes in about eight weeks. The entirety of District 158 has started this school year with remote learning. They started their school year on Aug. 25.