‘The costs just keep going up’: Area organizations help foster families with back-to-school shopping

The start of the new school year is almost here, and local organizations are specifically helping foster families head back to the classroom.

“Tee it Up” is an event hosted by Family Support Services of North Florida aimed at giving foster kids that needed back-to-school shopping trip without breaking the bank.

It’s the first time Grey, Lily, and Emma are shopping with their parents as an official family.

“We officially adopted about a week ago,” mom Sarah Valois said.

The trip to Staples is by no means a short one.

“We have a 13-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a 3-year-old, and they’re all three going to three different schools,” Valois said.

From notebooks to pencils, the Valois family needed it all.

According to the National Retail Federation, people are spending record amounts of money on back-to-school shopping this year.

Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $848.90 on school supplies, nowadays that includes more electronics. That’s $59 more than last year.

“It keeps going up just like everything else. We continue to try and increase what we can donate.” Marauders member Ron Tomlinson said. “The costs just keep going up and this is really something that the school needs.”

With the help of Family Support Services of North Florida, this trip to the store is easier on the wallet.

The organization provides dozens of foster kids with $100 each to spend on back-to-school shopping.

“For the oldest, we had $150. So, we went ahead and paid the remaining,” Valois said. “For the younger two, we hit $99 for the 5-year-old and $50 for the 3-year-old. So, we got some extra stuff for later on in the year.”

The event was also fun for the kids to take part in.

“They can choose their own supplies instead of having someone hand them to them or having hand-me-down items,” FFS Education and Community Specialist Lisa Rozier said.

FFS served more than 100 foster families.

The shopping spree was made possible thanks to a generous donation from the Marauders, a local golf club of about 30 golfers.