Backpacks give free supplies, smilesPublished 6:04pm Sunday, August 19, 2012
Parents and eager children began lining up at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Brookside Learning Center in Cassopolis to nab new backpacks filled with grade-appropriate supplies, all for free.
The fourth annual event, hosted by Lewis Cass Intermediate School District and funded by the United Way of Southwest Michigan, boasted more than 1,000 colorful backpacks filled to the top with necessary supplies. More than 100 volunteers gathered Friday to help pack the bags, which included several items listed on the school-suggested supplies lists each student receives. The project, estimated at $24,000 by United Way Innovations Coordinator Emily Hosinski, handed out an expected 1,000 backpacks to students and parents Saturday, with another 200 lined up for distribution Wednesday in Marcellus.
“This is for kids that need them,” Hosinski said Saturday. “We don’t turn anyone away, and we have bags that can go toward any student, pre-k to 12th grade.”
According to Hosinski, the United Way served 500 to 600 people last year, handing out 850 backpacks.
“This is my second year with the program, and it’s a good feeling to see students get what they need for school,” Hosinski said. “We’re all so thankful to the businesses, donors and our volunteers; we couldn’t have done it without them.”
Tonya Holmes, one of the parents who arrived nearly two hours early to take advantage of the event, said she was happy something like this existed for local kids.
“It’s a good idea,” Holmes said. “We’ll come back as long as they have it.”
Volunteer Shellie Dowsett, of the Cass County Prosecutor’s office, said she and her family have helped with the event each year.
“It’s a good program, and it serves a need in our community,” Dowsett said, who also brings along her husband and children to help.
Nicole Tweedy brought her kids, James and Kayla, to grab backpacks.
“This is almost like Christmas for them,” Tweedy said. “It’s a fabulous idea, and there’s probably about half of the supply list in these bags.”
Kayla sai some necessary items she needed were among the haul.
“I’ve got scissors,” she said. “I’m excited for school. and I like the bags; they’re free.”
James said his favorite part included a hand-sanitizer dispenser.
“If all I have to buy now is their mid-year box of tissues and three-ring binders, then that’s awesome,” Tweedy said.
Amy Glover, of Edwardsburg, said this was her second year attending the program and she would need to pick up five backpacks before school began.
“I’ve lost my job, and I’m a single mom, so to know that they want to help, it means so much,” Glover said.
When she attended the event last year, she said she didn’t know what she was walking into, from free haircuts, to dental screenings and vital identification kits, the offers surprised her. She said more parents should take advantage of the opportunity.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” Glover said. “It’s here for you to use, and really, it’s a blessing.”
The last backpack event will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Marcellus United Methodist Church, 197 W. Main St., Marcellus.