By Caleb Mynatt, The Belton Journal
The Belton community came out on Monday, August 17 to help local families during the 15th Annual Project Apple Tree Distribution Day. With the turn of the calendar year into August, school bells ring and families all over the Belton area prepare for another year of school. Children of all ages go back-to-school shopping with their parents, getting the best supplies there are for their upcoming year of educational enrichment.
While public school is free for all students, the supplies are not, and some families have trouble affording the various notebooks and tools one might need for learning. That’s where Project Apple Tree comes in: to help these families in need.
“Project Apple Tree is a faith based organization that supplies school supplies, and clothes, and other necessary items for children who are in need,” said Janette Kelley, Founder and Director of Project Apple Tree. “We started 15 years ago with 250 children, and this year we’re doing 1451.”
Project Apple Tree is one of the biggest community efforts that the Belton area undertakes every year. Distribution Day is only one part of a very long and difficult process to supply underprivileged children with the tools to succeed in school. Every year the program grows and acquires more sponsors and volunteers, and the community takes pride in it.
“It takes a host of volunteers. On this Distribution Day we probably have 200 to 300 volunteers throughout the day. Young people, the elderly, those who work with the police department, school groups, and church groups are all here helping today,” said Kelley. “It’s a community effort. We have about 28 different businesses and organizations helping us make this work today.”
Something unique to Project Apple Tree is that the program is very personal to the clients. Through affiliation with Helping Hands Ministries, people can qualify to receive help from Project Apple Tree, and that help is specifically targeted to their needs.
“Each child will get their own individual box, filled with supplies and clothes specific to them. Whether you’re in 12th grade or 5th grade, they’ll get supplies and clothes that fit them,” said Kelley.
“This all starts in January and February. This all can’t come together in a week or two,” said Rucker Preston, Executive Director of Helping Hands Ministries, and a big part in the running of Project Apple Tree. “There’s lots of leg work in the spring. That’s when we have the interview process, to know what all we need to get for our clients at Helping Hands and those families affiliated with this event. Everyone will get their own clothes in their size, and it takes a lot of help. There are probably over 1000 people involved from January to August.”
Though on the surface Belton does not seem like a town with much poverty, there are many families who live with serious economic challenges. Fortunately, Belton is a community of great people who are willing to give generously of their time and money to ensure the children have the opportunity to do well in school.
“As a community grows, and Belton has grown quite a bit since my first year doing this, need will always be prevalent in the community,” said Janette Kelley. “Belton is such a giving community. I’m not sure something like this would work as well as it does with our giving community.”
“The community is very cooperative and generous,” said Rucker Preston
While Kelley works hard to give all she can to this needy in her community, she has only one wish for her organization, other than helping the needy.
“This is a faith based organization, my literature even says ‘Christ Based,’” said Kelley. “We have people giving out the New Testament with every box, and whoever may ask for one. I want these kids to know that God loves them, and will always provide.
With the 15th Annual Project Apple Tree in the books, it’s easy to say it was a success. With people of all ages coming out to help, the community collaborated to help make sure that all the Belton and Temple children are prepared for the upcoming school year.