We’ve all seen the commercials on television – the one with the overjoyed parents dancing through the school supplies aisle to the tune of a Christmas carol reminding us, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
But for some families, that joy can turn to stress when it comes to paying for those new supplies.
Woolwich Community Services aims to ease some of that stress through its annual Backpack Program, which runs from Aug. 23 to Sept. 3. The organization collects new backpacks and school supplies such as pencils and binders, as well as cash donations, and distributes them to underprivileged members of the community.
“It started in 2002 because we felt there was a need in the community,” said WCS’ Kelly Christie. “We do the food bank here as well, and Christmas goodwill and sometimes it’s a difficult time for low-income earners to also provide back-to-school supplies for their children.”
WCS approaches service groups, churches, and members of the community to ask for their support by making cash donations or donations of schools supplies, she explained, noting the response has been tremendous. The program has grown steadily over the past eight years; they had enough supplies for some 220 children last year, nearly three times the 79 children who received school supplies in 2003.
Part of the process involves making the experience fun for children, who might not always be thrilled with the idea of heading back to class. They get to pick from the assortment gathered by WCS.
“We don’t put the [backpacks] together – they actually get to shop and get what they want. So a little girl might go out with all pink stuff, and a boy might go out with all cars. It’s a lot of fun for them, and the families really appreciate it.”
The township has given Woolwich Community Services access to the old council chambers at 69 Arthur St. to set up a “store” for families to come and pick up their supplies, but Christie is asking them to visit Woolwich Community Services first.
Families need to live in Woolwich Township to qualify for the program, but that is one of the only restrictions. The organization doesn’t really do an income assessment: this program is based more on the honour system, Christie said.
“With the economy the way it is, some people have been making a good wage but may be laid off now and receiving less income through EI, and that has affected their budget. Their expenses haven’t gone down as far as mortgage payments and paying bills, and they could certainly use the help of a backpack and school supplies.”
Donations are already coming in, and anyone interested in donating to the program can drop new school supplies off at Woolwich Community Services at 73 Arthur St. in Elmira. A tax receipt will be issued for any cash donation made over $10.