CES Cares: Advocates for Good
It’s early July, and volunteers and staff from Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center (DCAC) stand beneath shady tents in the hot Texas sun. Behind them, 1,200 backpacks provided by City Electric Supply are filled with school supplies for the new school year. Traffic cones direct cars to separate tents, and some kids get to make the choice of a lifetime: should they get a backpack with sharks or flowers?
You might not think that 1,200 backpacks stuffed with school supplies would make a huge difference to the children at DCAC — but you haven’t met these kids.
Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center helps families of abused children receive the services they need to heal. Sometimes that involves providing access to mental health therapists and social workers, other times, it might just be a free backpack stuffed with supplies to help them start the school year off right.
“The support from CES helps us provide school-aged children with backpacks, supplies, uniforms, or even gift cards for the uniforms,” said Sarah Burns, the Chief Marketing Officer at DCAC.
“I’m not sure this year we’d have been able to have a backpack drive of any sorts without having such a steady, dedicated partner. The fact that our clients can rely on CES to do this each year is huge for us.”
Supporting the kids, one backpack at a time
Since 2016, City Electric Supply has been a proud sponsoring partner of DCAC and their Back to School event. Over the last four years, CES has provided more than 6,500 backpacks and $200,000 in charitable contributions. The backpacks and school supplies go straight to the children at DCAC, and they also receive some motivational notes written by CES employees, inspiring them to have an awesome school year.
“Because we do this every year, we’re able to give these families some stability, something they can count on,” Sarah said. “It helps them get through the harder parts of life because it’s just one less thing they have to worry about, especially during such a challenging time like the beginning of a new school year.”
However, this year’s Back to School drive looked a little different. There’s usually a bookfair and activities to get kids excited about the new school year. But because of COVID-19, the dedicated volunteers and staff handed out backpacks and supplies in the hot Texas sun as families drove up (and through) the event.
“We decided the best way to distribute the backpacks and supplies would be in a drive-through format,” Sarah said. “We did it in late July, the same time we normally do it. But at the time, schools hadn’t even announced when they were going to open or what their new schedule looked like for the year.”
No matter what was going to happen at the schools, whether they’d be held online or in-person, the kids needed the supplies. So, DCAC ran with it.
“By the end of the day, we gave away over 600 backpacks,” she said. “Even though parents were wearing masks, you could just tell in their eyes how grateful they were.
As the kids decided which backpack they wanted — sharks or flowers? — DCAC was just grateful to have the continued support of one of their presenting sponsors to make these moments and these experiences possible for the children who really need it.
“A couple of parents also had their kids with them, so it was fun to give the kids a few choices on backpack styles and to see them get excited. Those are things we take for granted — very basic tools that they need to do their schoolwork.
And although they still had some backpacks left over after the event, Sarah knows that as schools start back up, they’ll have plenty more to hand out.
“Even though we distributed less than normal before the start of school, we are always happy to make sure these students have everything they need to get a great education,” Sarah said.
“When kids are physically back in the building and teachers see them without the barriers of virtual learning, we expect a surge in new cases. The additional backpacks and school supplies will be on hand to distribute, and CES is such a big part of making that possible.”
How to get involved
You don’t have to stuff backpacks to help a cause. Sometimes, the impact you have can be amplified just by being aware of child abuse.
“The people usually on the frontlines of spotting child abuse — such as teachers and counselors — haven’t been there because of social distancing and sheltering in place. We need everyone’s help now more than ever,” Sarah said.
According to DCAC, the sad truth is that 73% of children won’t tell anyone that they’re facing abuse. Teachers and other adults trained in spotting abuse are usually the ones who bring attention to potential cases.
“We’ve seen about a 40% drop in reports of child abuse since COVID started,” Sarah explained. “The problem is that just because reports are down, that doesn’t mean abuse has stopped. In fact, we know that abuse thrives in secrecy. ”
Even though there’s a drop in cases, one report of child abuse is still too many. This year alone, DCAC has seen 8,000 cases so far.
So, what can you do to help? More than anything, Sarah recommends that the most important step you can take is to be trained to spot and report child abuse.
“It’s important to help your community by learning to recognize and report child abuse. Be a safe adult in your community — wherever you live, work, and play. We offer training for free on our website. We need more adults trained in the signs of child abuse — no matter where they might live, especially during this time.”
Giving backpacks to help give back
Now, as schools start back up either virtually or in-person, Sarah and the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center are grateful to have a partnership with CES. The volunteer work that CES employees do during orientation and beyond is something that truly makes a difference and has a huge positive impact on these families and their children.
“Volunteering through the Back to School project is a huge help to us because those are things that we would have to purchase or do on our own,” Sarah said. “We are always looking for volunteers, and every little bit helps. Having a partner like CES, who cares as much as we do about our clients, is key to overcoming the trauma of child abuse.”
To all of our employees who help make this possible, thank you! The time you spend packing these supplies, writing inspiring notes to the children, and showing that you care truly matter to these families during very difficult times!