With Thanksgiving around the corner, many people take the time to reflect and show appreciation for what they have. But at Back to Basics, a completely volunteer-based nonprofit organization, helping children in need is a year-round commitment.
The charity was founded by Wellington resident Beverly Perham in 1984 and has been serving kids in Palm Beach County through its signature Angel Program ever since.
“In the beginning, it was 30 kids, and I donated money that my friend needed that she wanted to use for Christmas. So, I got started and enjoyed it, and I wanted to do more for those 30 kids,” Perham said. “The next year, it turned out to be 165 kids. In 1986, we took two of the schools in Riviera Beach, and that year we did about 350 kids.”
Over the years, the program continued its expansion and now reaches more than 7,500 children in Palm Beach County. The purpose of the program is to provide “the basics” — new sneakers, socks, underwear and a toy. More than 50 Title I elementary schools, with over 85 percent of their students on free or reduced lunch, receive support from the partners and volunteers of Back to Basics.
“We need individuals, clubs, businesses, organizations and churches to join us in support by taking ‘angel cards,’ which have specific information, such as shoe sizes, for the children,” Back to Basics Treasurer Kelle Enriquez said. “Participants shop and wrap the gifts for each child, and then return them to us for distribution.”
When a group commits to taking a stack of angel cards, the return rate averages 85 percent. What happens to those missing presents? Back to Basics makes sure no one is left behind.
“If we make a commitment to 1,000 students, and 85 percent come back, that leaves out 150 children,” Perham said. “When I went to Belle Glade one time, the kids just sat and cried. I asked the principal why, and she said, ‘It’s
because you came back.’ That stuck in my mind. If you make a promise, you have to fulfill it.”
Partners continue joining the program as it expands. Recently, the Five Below store in Boca Raton began pitching in to help. Lisa Palmenteri, the customer experience manager at the Five Below store in Mission Bay, was on site volunteering during her time off.
“We didn’t know anything about Back to Basics, but we saw this lady coming in and buying loads of stuff,” Palmenteri said of Enriquez. “She told us about the program, so we were doing everything we could to provide a discount and help with taxes. She is our number-one customer. We help her shop, we load her up, and everything is done because of what she is doing for the community and these kids. It gives us the feeling we are doing something for the community, too.”
The other half of Back to Basics is the Uniform Program, in which children are provided with new uniforms to wear to school at the start of each year.
“We did 17,000 school uniforms this year, and that is just in Palm Beach County,” Perham said. “Our rule of thumb is no child gets more than two new uniforms. We want to be a helping hand, not a handout.”
Organizations and groups interested in taking angel cards for this holiday season should call (561) 702-4527 to set up an appointment for pick up and drop off.