Backpacks For A Cause

Back-to-school shopping is seldom the grinning, hand-holding experience portrayed in TV and print ads.

backpacksKids worry they’ll have the “wrong” notebooks or pens.  Parents fear they’ll forget something important, and their kid’s teacher will think they’re idiots.

Other Westporters have a deeper, more realistic fear:  They can’t pay for everything their kids need.

Fortunately, Westport’s Human Services Department is on the case.

Its annual Back to School program, offering supplies to eligible families, begins Monday (August 8).

The program provides gift cards to income-eligible families with children in the Westport schools. Families can then buy new backpacks and school supplies together.

Last year, 152 kids from 102 families received assistance. That’s almost 8 full classrooms of kids.

The program depends entirely on the generosity of individuals and organizations.  Tax-deductible monetary donations — of any amount — made payable to “Town of Westport/DHS Family Programs” (memo:  “Back to School”) can be sent to, or dropped off at, Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave. (Town Hall), Westport CT 06880.

Gift cards of any amount to stores like Target, Walmart, Old Navy, Staples, etc. are appreciated too. They can be dropped off at Room 200 of Town Hall weekdays, from 8:30 a.m. to 4;30 p.m.

To find out if you qualify for assistance, call Elaine Daignault: 341-1050.

2 responses to “Backpacks For A Cause

  1. Marcy Anson Fralick -- Staples Class of '70

    I love these programs. Southern Arizona is a fairly poor area with a lot of Mexican, Hispanic and Native American kids who can’t afford school supplies. We have the “Stuff the Bus” programs, and “Shop with a Cop” for our underprivileged kids.
    The school district sends the names of the most underprivileged kids to Social Services who then works with the police departments, sheriff and highway patrol, firefighters, EMTs, and the Elks, Masons, etc. They’re each assigned a child, and take their to Target stores in the area on a specific day. Target closes their stores for two hours and allows the adult and his/her child to shop for the school supplies on their lists. Social Services and Target chip in to pay for them. At the same time, all the Tucson TV and radio stations have school supply drives in July and August (school started August 8th) where they put a school bus in the parking lots of all the Targets, Wal-Marts, K-Marts, plus our grocery stores Albertsons, Safeway and Frys at the end of the day. They have school supply lists for all the schools, grades and teachers posted at the store’s school supply displays in each school district, and people can buy some or all of the supplies on a particular class list for as many children as they wish. The goal is to stuff one school bus per school, about 25 elementary schools, to cover those kids who didn’t make the list for the fraternal organizations, but still have trouble affording the supplies. Even with all that, schools and students still come up short. Instead of shipping surplus supplies to stores in other parts of the country where school starts later, Target will donate a large number of its leftover supplies to the neediest schools in the Tucson area. The grocery stores will leave school supply barrels in each school through late September with a list of needed supplies for shoppers who still wish to purchase and donate supplies to the students, and send those to the schools in their area.
    At Christmas, Social Services also sends out the names of their underprivileged clients (kids) to the local police and they have another “Shop with a Cop” at Target where each child is given $200.00 and their cop helps them shop for Christmas gifts for themselves as their families can’t afford Christmas gifts. Interestingly, the majority of the kids (ages 5 – 15) shop for their families and rarely for themselves. Cops have to really persuade the kids to find themselves a gift, and when they do, it’s usually something very practical, like clothing or shoes.
    As a volunteer with our local Police Department, I love seeing the community and the police working together for the children.

  2. Hi Dan, I’m so glad that you always mention Human Services and the backpack deal each year.  Human Services are one of the best (if not the best) help in WP -always there for you!  They helped Richard and myself many times the past few years.You would really be surprised at the little ways they help which become big ways to those of us who have been helped!!!  I will always be grateful to all who work there!   Of course, being a former teacher, Ido always donate to the backpack drive – know it helps many – and – very important that all kids have what they need to start the school year  – and – that they be the same as others!! Sandy