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Wednesday, July 14 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 156

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Campaign collects school supplies for local children

By Jim Parsons
News Editor

More than 10,000 impoverished elementary school students across Greater Houston will have the school supplies they need this fall, thanks to the Houston Alumni Organization's Operation School Supplies.

OSS, in its ninth year, is a combined effort of the HAO, Randalls grocery stores and the Houston Coca-Cola Bottling Co. to raise $75,000 worth of supplies for area school children.

The program is an offshoot of a national effort begun by Coca-Cola. Nine years ago, HAO and Randalls joined forces to bring the community service to Houston.

The need for OSS is especially great in Houston. Studies show that more than 240,000 students in Harris County -- or 30 percent -- live in poverty.

This year's campaign began last week with collection bins placed at the University Bookstore, Rother's Bookstore and all Houston-area Randalls markets.

Having only two collection bins on campus is a departure from past years, when there were nearly 20. But Tram Nguyen, who is heading OSS for the HAO, said having so many collection points didn't prove effective.

"We tried it with other departments, (but often) there's just no school supplies around," she said. "Students are still going to the two bookstores, so they can help out."

Donations of school supplies can be left in the bins through Tuesday, Aug. 10, she said.

In addition, "scan cards" shaped like pencils will be available for $1 at all Randalls registers. The $1 purchase price for each card will be donated to OSS, as will a portion of the price of all Coca-Cola products sold at area Randalls stores.

Nguyen said a new addition to this year's program is "sponsor a school," designed to promote the University in local elementary schools.

Anyone is welcome to sponsor a school with a $25 donation, which Nguyen said will be used to purchase red-and-white pencils imprinted with the UH logo, Web site and telephone number. The pencils will be distributed to the schools.

Nguyen said the HAO hopes to find at least one sponsor for each of the 164 area elementary schools.

She said about 80 sponsors have committed so far. "We're halfway there, but we still need more," she said.

OSS has organized a contest for sponsors from University departments. Nguyen said the department with the most sponsors through Friday will receive a basket of UH paraphernalia. The winning department will be judged based on actual money received, and employees' department name must be included with the $25 donation.

Anyone can sponsor a school by filling out a sponsor form on the Internet (www.uh.edu/alumni/calendar/sum99/ossform.html) or calling Nguyen at (713) 743-9550. For those on campus, sponsor forms and checks payable to the HAO may be sent through Interoffice Mail to mail code ALM 6732.

Nguyen noted that, though the departmental contest will end Friday, sponsors will continue to be accepted through Aug. 10.

Even after the OSS ending date, however, volunteers will be needed to help sort and package all the school supplies collected. The OSS sort and box day will be Saturday, Aug. 14, in the O'Quinn Great Hall at the Athletic/Alumni Center.

Nguyen said anyone interested in volunteering can call her at (713) 743-9550 or simply show up at the Great Hall at 9 a.m. Aug. 14. Volunteers will receive T-shirts and lunch, she said.

Last year, OSS raised $60,000 in supplies, which went to 10,000 students in 26 area school districts.

This year, the three principal sponsors are receiving assistance from KRIV-TV Channel 26, the United Way and the Houston Chronicle. Tram said KRIV is featuring OSS on its 9 p.m. news broadcast, the United Way is handling telephone calls, and the Chronicle is printing advertisements for the campaign.

All supplies collected will be divided among needy elementary schools, which will pick up supply packets from the HAO on Monday, Aug. 16.


 
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