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|7/31/2013 ||Email this article Print this article |
|Non-profit primed to give books, blankets to kids in need|
By Kate Howes
In many ways, Chrissy Thiel Kitchen and Gina Ryan Schlicksup are just like lots of other moms.
They both love their children dearly and want to provide them with as much security, encouragement and education as they need to be successful as students and human beings.
They also know not all families are able to give their children everything they need.
What sets Kitchen and Schlicksup apart is their intention to actually do something about it.
Now, they are enlisting the help of anyone who is willing to lend a hand - or a book or blanket - and support their cause.
The 1998 Central Community High School graduates have teamed up to form "From Cover to Cover," a non-profit organization dedicated to collecting and distributing new books and handmade blankets to children of needy families.
Kitchen, a mother of two and entrepreneur, and Schlicksup, a teacher turned stay-at-home-mom of four, have seen the statistics regarding at-risk children who aren't considered "kindergarten ready" and how difficult it is for them to catch up.
"It's shocking," Kitchen relates. "When you see the numbers, it's troubling."
According to United Way of Eastern Iowa, for children raised in low-income homes, differences in learning emerge as early as 9 months of age and the gap continues to widen as they get older.
For example, there is a definite achievement gap in Linn County and surrounding counties between low-income students (defined as those who qualify for Free or Reduced Price Lunch) and higher-income students before children even enter school.
Only 50 percent of the low-income kindergartners are proficient in early literacy skills, in contrast to 72 percent of their higher-income peers.
In order to address these gaps, intervention must start early in children's lives - and that is exactly what "From Cover to Cover" is intended to accomplish.
Furthermore, as it states on the organization's logo, "every child deserves the comfort of a book and a snuggle."
Kitchen and Schlicksup want to give at-risk youngsters their own special books to treasure, as well as handmade, fleece tie blankets with which they can snuggle while nestling their minds between the covers of a book.
"According to many assessments, only one in six kids are 'kindergarten ready,'" Schlicksup states on the From Cover to Cover website. "As an educator, I have felt compelled to do something to help out with this problem for some time."
Over the course of several months, Schlicksup and her family acquired 100 new books to be distributed.
Simultaneously, Kitchen began making fleece tie blankets with her children as a family project.
That, Schlicksup explains, is where their "story" and the official launch of From Cover to Cover began.
The pair has been pursuing elementary schools in both the Quad City and DeWitt areas, targeting kindergarten students.
"Eventually we want to be able to provide new books for kids of all ages," Kitchen notes, "tweens, teenagers . . . since we're just getting started, we are just going to focus on kindergartners."
They are looking to the public for help in collecting new books, blankets, material for blankets or monetary donations.
An account has been established at First Central State Bank in DeWitt.
Blanket drive happening now
Kitchen and Schlicksup ask that books be geared toward kindergarten-age children and be new or gently used.
They would like to give children brand-new books and provide under-funded classrooms with the gently used books.
For anyone interested in making and donating fleece tie blankets, they must measure 1 1/2-yards to equal the approximate size of a lap blanket. Persons may e-mail for guidelines.
For those who "aren't the crafty type," on the website, , there is a "donate" button visitors can click to provide funding to purchase material for blankets.
Kitchen and Schlicksup are hopeful organizations such as Scouts, church groups or 4-H clubs in search of community service projects will donate their time and talents in order to help.
Their goal is to have 60 blankets in the next couple of weeks - just in time for the 2013-2014 school year.
As for schools the organization is on track to help, Kitchen and Schlicksup have connected with Jefferson-Edison Elementary School in Davenport, Bridgeview Elementary in LeClaire and is in talks with principal Jen Vance at Ekstrand Elementary.
As things develop with the organization (ultimately they intend to establish a board of directors), From Cover to Cover will reach out to more schools and broaden their focus to include more grade levels.
Kitchen and Schlicksup are eager to get approximately 200 new books and blankets in the hands of area kindergartners in time for school.
There are a number of ways individuals, families and organizations can assist, and they are hoping, as word spreads, people will jump on board.
Some of their schoolmates already have donated funds and fellow 1998 graduate Jacki Leslie Bardole created the From Cover to Cover logo, which is purple and gold in color to pay homage to their alma mater.
"People we went to school with are kind of coming out of the woodwork," Kitchen says. "DeWitt has brewed some very good people who are willing to do a lot for others. Even though people live all over the place, they're always willing to come back together to help somebody in need."
Fund-raisers being planned
Kitchen and Schlicksup are in the process of planning a number of fund-raisers to support their cause, including an event called "The Amazing Race for Reading," based on the popular television show "The Amazing Race."
The Amazing Race for Reading will be held Saturday, Sept. 28. Participants will solve clues in search of their next destination, complete fun challenges at each stop and work their way through a "road block" or "detour."
The first team to complete all the tasks and cross the finish line will be crowned the winner and receive a prize.
Teams must consist of four adults and there will be a 12-team maximum. An after-party will be held at Hall of Fame.
To register, interested persons may visit www.fromcovertocoverproject. com and complete The Amazing Race