What would it be like for a child to go through a school year without any pencils, paper, or other school supplies?
The principal of the 68th Street Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles, Joanne Doram, was determined that none of her 1200 students would find out. On December 4th the students in need were given an opportunity to earn their school supplies.
"Because of drastic cuts in the school budget and a local economy which left many of our parents unable to buy needed school materials for their children, I turned to the local UMMA Community Clinic for help because I knew they provide important services," Doram said. The University Muslim Medical Association Community Clinic, provides free medical and other services for those in need. Their leaders contacted Steve Gilliland, the director of Muslim relations for the LDS Public Affairs Council of Southern California and asked for help. He had previously been discussing possible service projects where LDS youth and the youth of the Islamic Center of Southern California could work together. Nathan Richardson, youth leader of the Islamic Center, accepted the opportunity to help as well as the presidents of the Los Angeles and Inglewood Stakes (which include 18 congregations) of the LDS Church.
Early in September, these organizations began gathering donations of materials for the project. The LDS Church trucked 800 school packets from Salt Lake City for the cause. Costco and other local businesses have also contributed backpacks and supplies for the children. Most of the donations, however, came from the families and youth of the participating faiths.
Doram explained that on December 4th the school held a fair where the children visited 20 booths sponsored by agencies that serve the local community. Some of the booths at the fair included the UMMA Clinic offering health information, a library providing materials on literacy, and others providing resources for financial matters, legal aid, fire and crime prevention, etc. As the children visited and learned from each booth, they had a card stamped. A completed card entitled them to receive a new backpack which had just been filled with notebooks, pens and pencils, scissors, rulers, folders, glue sticks, erasers, and other school supplies.
During the fair, the nearly 200 Mormon and Muslim youth met in the school auditorium where they assembled the school supplies and filled the backpacks while more than twenty of them helped with the fair at the face painting booth and passed out balloons to the children. More than 650 backpacks and school packets were distributed.
After the assembling was completed, and while some of the volunteers passed out the backpacks and school packets to the school children, the Mormon and Muslim teens played "Human Bingo," a get-acquainted mixer. They then had a discussion about similarities in belief and practices among the Latter-day Saints and those who follow Islam.
They all left feeling good about what they had accomplished and the people they had met that day.
On behalf of the many who benefitted from this project, Doram expressed gratitude. "Our students, their families and our community appreciate the UMMA Community Clinic, the Mormons and the Islamic Center for the service and school supplies they provided."