Social services drive helps students get school supplies

As part of its annual back-to-school drive, Wilton Social Services is collecting gift cards through the end of August so Wilton students can get the supplies they need for the 2017-18 school year.

School supply expenses are “pretty high” and “many families don’t have extra money to purchase necessary school items,” said Social Services Director Sarah Heath.

Gift cards to stores that sell office supplies like Staples and Walmart — as well as non-refundable prepaid gift cards like Visa Gift Cards — can be dropped off at the Wilton Social Services office in Comstock Community Center at 180 School Road.

Families served by Wilton Social Services will receive the cards in late August and have time to shop for supplies before the first day of school, which is Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Lauren Hughes, coordinator of senior services and family programs, said Wilton Social Services has had a back-to-school drive for as long as she can remember.

“The program has grown as the [population] has grown,” said Hughes, who joined the department 23 years ago.

In 1994, Hughes said, the department served around 10 Wilton children. According to Heath, that number is now around 75. As the number of children served has grown over the years, said Hughes, her responsibility has become to “reach out to the community to find other sources of contributions.”

The Salvation Army provides the department with Payless gift cards to give to clients so they can purchase shoes, and Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton and Wilton Congregational Church supply backpacks and gift cards.

About 75 Wilton students will receive back-to-school donations this year, said Hughes, with Wilton Congregational Church responsible for 30 students and Our Lady of Fatima responsible for around 45.

Wilton Social Services also works with the Miller-Driscoll and Cider Mill PTAs, which sell back-to-school box supplies.

“We give them a list in June of children we service,” said Heath, “and the PTAs offer parents the opportunity to purchase additional boxes and have them donated to our clients.”

The goal of the back-to-school drive is to “even the playing field” for all Wilton students starting school.

“We want them to feel like they have everything they need — even if it’s just the basic necessities,” said Heath, “and we want them to go to school feeling good about themselves.”

Families “usually” come to Wilton Social Services for needs like housing and energy assistance, said Hughes, and they “normally don’t know” about its back-to-school collection program. Heath said the department encourages families who haven’t reached out to do so.

Wilton Social Services office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Information: 203-834-6238,