The income-eligible families of school children in need will have to look elsewhere next year for assistance with obtaining school supplies. The annual “Operation NR Cares” charitable drive held its final collection this summer, assisting more than 50 local children with receiving new supplies for the school year.
The Office on Aging and Human Services, which organizes the event year-after-year, is fostering a newfound partnership with University Hospitals Center for Lifelong Health, and will take a step back to focus on Senior Center programming, said Outreach Specialist Debra Burrows.
“Operation NR Cares,” which just celebrated its eighth year, was held every summer and collected charitable donations at locations throughout the community. To qualify for “Operation NR Cares,” residents in the local school district filled out an application at the Office on Aging and Human Services, provided proof of residency and showed their income tax to determine level of assistance. The donation wish list included items like backpacks, dry erase markers, USB flash drives, hand sanitizer, red pens, scissors, Sharpie markers, highlighters, index cards, folders, colored pencils, washable markers, jumbo glue sticks, antibacterial wipes, and wide ruled paper and notebooks.
Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw started the charitable drive after volunteering at the Food Bank and seeing many families there that he recognized from the school community. At the time of its inception, Langshaw was a member of the school board. Langshaw spearheads the initiative each year, and says there are many similar back-to-school drives in and around the community.
In an email about the decision to stop “Operation NR Cares,” Langshaw noted that residents in need have several outlets available to them and that these groups can take the lead on doing drives in years to come.
“Debbie and I had some recent discussions about it,” Langshaw said. “It has been great doing the program for the last eight years. Based on those discussions, we feel there are so many groups now that have similar back-to-school supply drives, such as St. Albert the Great Church, Royal Redeemer Lutheran Church, and now the North Royalton Library, that have really stepped up to help people our community in need. There are now many more resources that folks can count on versus that of 2010 when I helped start the program. If anything, the Operation North Royalton Cares Program has inspired others to help more people, which is truly a success. These groups can now handle helping additional residents in need. I will also try and reach out to the PTAs in the North Royalton City School District to see if there are things maybe they can do to help as well in the future more at a building level. Especially with the North Royalton Library doing such a large-scale program of their own, it makes sense to transition and let these groups take on this role of helping those in need in this capacity and I am thankful for that.”
In 2016, 29 families – or 61 children – started their school year off with fresh supplies thanks to “Operation NR Cares,” Burrows said, and in 2015, 32 families benefited from the program. This year, Burrows said 22 families totaling 51 children were assisted.
In its final year, “Operation NR Cares” was a tremendous success.
“I had a few large anonymous donations of supplies left at my door step this year which was a nice surprise,” Langshaw said.
Burrows also noted the wonderful response.
“A big thank you to WB Mason Co. for donating 36 new back packs in a variety of colors, Royalton Woods for the case of tissues and Parkside Villa for all of the hand sanitizers,” Burrows said of this year’s drive. “First Federal Lakewood and Royal Redeemer brought in a large amount of school supplies. We had one resident bring in over $350 worth of supplies, including two new TI84 CE Plus calculators and two headphones. We had many donations made by private individuals along with gift cards, cash and checks totaling over $800.”
Preparations for “Operation NR Cares” were held every July, and involved volunteers sorting and packing collected items. This past summer, Linda Toke, a volunteer and retired teacher, was put in charge of keeping track of which school buildings and grade levels needed specific items. She worked with ten other volunteers.
“Operation NR Cares” was free to income-eligible families. Collection boxes were set up through August 9 at the North Royalton Branch of Cuyahoga County Public Library, North Royalton Family YMCA, the Royalton Recorder/Chamber of Commerce, City Hall, the Office on Aging and Human Services and the School Board Office. Mastro’s The 3 Spot, which helped kick off the annual supply drive, had a collection bin as well.
“I am grateful for our community once again coming together for this great cause to help families and students in need,” Langshaw said of this year’s charitable drive. “North Royalton truly does care so much for helping those in need.”

Contributing Writer