FRANKLIN, Ind. — It's hard to believe, but it's nearly back-to-school time.
As you get your child's new backpack and binders, keep in mind there are families who struggle to buy supplies.
When a local grandmother saw that need, she took action to give back.
Now, this "Mimi" on a mission hopes others will be inspired to do the same.
One look inside the garage at her south side home, and it's pretty clear Barb Jankowski has been busy.
"See, it's garage Jenga," Jankowski joked, while expertly dislodging a folded cardboard box from a pile in the corner, then taking it over to another corner to pack, tape and label.
"You know as I see stuff, I buy it, I stick it over here, and then, I find room to stack it," she said.
She's been buying and stacking school supplies for the past year — that now tower to the ceiling of her garage.
"I have Kleenex, art supplies, backpacks, pencils, pencil boxes, glue," Jankowski said, pointing out the labeled boxes. "I have binders. I have recess toys. I have markers, things for treasure boxes. I have colored pencils."
The grandmother of two plans to donate all of it to Webb Elementary in Franklin.
Her "grands," Olivia and Lucie, are the ones who started calling her "Mimi."
"I'm Mimi," Jankowski said with a smile. "That's the cool name, right?!"
Over the past few years, she's become Mimi to a lot of children in Franklin, as many of the kids at Webb Elementary know her as the person who's dropping off donated school supplies to help any teacher who asks for it.
"I'm the grandmother of my granddaughter's school because I want to take care of all the kids," she said. "I want them all to be in school, ready to learn and be excited."
When she heard about students in need, without supplies, or teachers paying for supplies out of their own pockets, she started buying things herself.
"Because I never want any child to come to school and be embarrassed or be 'less than' because they don't have all the supplies or they don't have nice pencils, they don't have a pretty backpack," Jankowski said. "It's hard to learn when you come in and don't have the tools to succeed, and this is a very easy thing we can do for the kids."
So, she scoured the stores for sales — Barb really loves a bargain — and started collecting her stash.
"Here's sidewalk chalk from the Target bin," she pointed out in one pile. "Oh, and crayons for 50 cents? That's the buy price. 25 cents for the 70 count spiral notebook? Great price. Last year, Dollar General, if you downloaded the coupon on their app, you'd get $5 off a $15 purchase. Boom!"
Then, recently, Jankowski started sharing her finds on Facebook, posting deals and asking others to help.
"Supply Our Students #SOS" is the social media group she created, which aims to finish off Webb Elementary's supply needs for the year and expand donations throughout the Franklin Community Schools' district.
"I want the momentum to keep going, and I really want people to be involved," Jankowski said. "I really hope that this can be an inspiration to not only people in Franklin, but even to other cities, other school systems that 'hey, let's get behind the kids!' If you can, help your local school."
Jankowski says her garage now has about 95% of Webb's needs covered.
Even with discounts, she's spent a lot time and money shopping.
"Um, quite a bit, quite a bit," Jankowski said when asked about the total. "I would hate to add it up, to be honest, but I'm OK with that because I put my money where my heart is."
Granddaughter Olivia is pretty proud of her Mimi's mission: a pledge to help kids, one box of supplies at a time.
"I'd give her a thousand thumbs up," Olivia said, which brought a huge smile to Jankowski's face.
"Thank you," she replied. "Now give me a hug!"
If you'd like to help with Mimi's mission, check out the supply list, and contact Jankowski through the #SOS Facebook group.
There's also a school supply drive for #SOS on Saturday, July 17 in Franklin.
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