By Heather Regula, Correspondent
Project Apple Tree, now in its’ 18th year, was initially started by retired Belton ISD principal Jeanette Kelley, in partnership with the Director of Helping Hands at the time.
“Their goal was to provide school supplies and a new set of clothes for children who were starting their school year, and their family might not have been able to give these things to them. Each year, this project grows – the number of children we serve through Project Apple Tree increases. Last year, we helped more than 1300 children in Belton ISD and Academy ISD,” explained Tasha Roberts, Executive Director of Helping Hands Ministry.
Participating families are asked to purchase their Project Apple Tree supplies for $5, payable at the time of registration. Families register at Helping Hands and need to bring a proof of address and the child(ren)’s birth certificate(s) if they are first time participants.
“Allowing families to purchase their Project Apple Tree supplies for just $5 is an excellent opportunity to empower families to provide school supplies and clothes for their kids. Clients who have come to register have responded positively to this change,” remarked Roberts. “We receive so much community support for Project Apple Tree, and we appreciate that so very much. We love seeing a community take care of each other – families taking care of other families, ensuring that all kids get a successful start to the school year. First Baptist Church of Belton has been instrumental in letting us use their facility on distribution day. The drop off date hasn’t been announced yet but will be towards the end of July.”
Sara Hector, one of three coordinators for Project Apple Tree, has been involved with the project for 16 years.
“I met Jeanette Kelley through church and Kiwanis. I’m a retired teacher and principal and this project interested me a lot, so I got involved. Project Apple Tree is an amazing community effort! Altrusa of Temple puts together hygiene packs, and the Temple College Dental Hygiene Program folks donate dental hygiene kits to us,” stated Hector. “We have 26 churches, and many local businesses, that participate annually. The school campuses do projects during the spring, and they provide us with start-up money to help us buy supplies we need to get our project rolling. Our distribution day is amazing – we have only 200 volunteers participating that day to get the packages passed out to the families. My favorite day is the first day of school – I can sit on front porch and watch the school buses going by, knowing that over 1000 children are taken care of because of this project!”
For more information on Project Apple Tree, or to sponsor a child, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254)939-7355.