CareKits Provide Supplies To Kids Working At Home

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Tatyana, 7, of Water Mill can’t wait to start creating.

By Shari Adler

Many organizations and individuals are responding to the COVID-19 crisis by giving back to their local communities and healthcare workers in the form of such needed essentials as food and supplies.

Mindy Richenstein, a long-time Sagaponack resident, as well as founder and president of Supplies for Success, an independent 501(c)(3) public non-profit organization, decided to give back to her local community by providing nourishment for the mind, in the form of CareKits.

Kits are filled with creative and educational supplies, compiled for children aged 3-8 years old, for scholastic enrichment as children shelter at home while schools are closed. Supplies for Success has partnered with food banks, hospitals, and local organizations to facilitate delivery of the CareKits.

Under normal circumstances, the objective of Supplies for Success is to provide backpacks filled with grade-appropriate school supplies to children in need who reside in the East End, as well as other areas.

The mission of the organization is for each child to begin the school year with the confidence and tools required for flourishing in an academic environment. Backpacks are filled and organized, for recipient agencies or schools, in a community-wide event that takes place in August at the Bridgehampton Community House on Montauk Highway. Adult and child volunteers collaborate with local high-school students to participate in the preparation of over 2,000 backpacks for school children aged 4-18.

Historically, spring marks the time when intense planning begins in support of the backpack-assembly event. However, the spring of 2020 was no ordinary time. On March 5, as the COVID-19 crisis was on the cusp of a statewide shelter-in-place mandate, the Richenstein family lost Eric, their 37-year-old son, brother, uncle, and nephew to a tragic ski accident.

The family reacted immediately by establishing the Eric Richenstein Memorial Fund to honor his memory in a response to the coronavirus crisis. The fund is structured to continue to address possible future traumatic events as well.

Mindy Richenstein, always focusing on the welfare of children, directed her Supplies for Success team to pivot from a focus of backpacks to a development of CareKits, compiled for young children home from school.

The kits include fun, creative, and educational materials such as art supplies, modeling clay, coloring and activity books, paper, glue, flashcards, and more. It is hoped that the kits promote shelter-in-place academic stimulation, while simultaneously providing parental relief from extraordinary stress.

The objective is to keep children engaged, by learning and creating, during school closings. To date, more than 7,000 kits have been distributed to children through food pantries, hospitals, and schools. The first 3,000 kits were established with funds donated by the Richenstein family; the rest of the kits have been supported through an extensive outreach of fundraising efforts.

Thus far, the following organizations have been recipients of the CareKits: Island Harvest, Southampton Hospital, Stony Brook Hospital, Long Island Cares, Ed Alliance, Northwell Health, East Hampton School District, Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS), Bridgehampton Child Care, Butterfly Project, Heart of the Hamptons, Shinnecock Nation, John Hopkins Hospital and School, the Jewish Board Four Sites: Brooklyn, Harlem, Bronx, and Staten Island, and the Metropolitan Hospital. Whenever feasible, CareKits accompany food packages, thereby alleviating distribution efforts.

Anyone who would like to participate with their own expression of gratitude to local communities, to children of our healthcare workers, as well as local children in need, by providing CareKits for mindful stimulation and productivity, may donate by text to: ERIC4KIDS to 443F21, or visit suppliesforsuccess.org. The cost of each CareKit is $15. For more information, send an email to info@suppliesforsuccess.org.

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