Archived Story

United Way seeks volunteers for annual backpack giveaway

Published 8:00am Friday, July 25, 2014

For many families in Cass County, purchasing even the most basic items for the upcoming school year can be a challenge.

The United Way of Southwest Michigan and the Lewis-Cass Intermediate School District are working together to ensure that all students have the tools they need to succeed.

On Saturday, Aug. 16, the two will host the Cass County School Supply Spectacular at the Brookside Learning Center in Cassopolis, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteers will be handing out backpacks filled with school supplies to low-income families on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The United Way is currently seeking people to help fill and distribute backpacks for the giveaway. In prior years, the organization has rounded about 120 people to contribute hours, and is looking to receive the same amount of support this year as well, said organizer Douglas Ferrall.

“Many hands make light work, so the more the better,” Ferrall said. “But if we get that number this year, the event will run pretty smoothly.”

Volunteers will be needed on Aug. 12, 14 and 16. Tasks they will be handling include organizing the materials, packing the bags and handing them out to children the day of the event.

Many of the people who devoted time helping at previous year’s giveaways have returned for future ones, Ferrall said.

“It shows that there are things you can do right here in your own community to make a difference,” he said. “You don’t have to travel and spend a lot of money, you can help out right where you live.”

The United Way has been helping the ISD deliver school supplies to low-income families for the last seven years. According to their data, more than half students in the county qualify for free or reduced lunch, and an estimated 200 students are homeless.

“School supplies are something that no kid can go without,” Ferrall said. “They need everything they can to succeed in school, so giving them good supplies is a good place to start.”

Organizers are packing around 1,000 backpacks for this, and expect to give away between 800 and 900 on Aug. 16, Ferrall said.

In addition to the backpacks, organizers have arranged for a Feeding American Mobile Food Pantry to be at the learning center the day of the distribution.

The United Way is hosting a second giveaway in Cass County on Aug. 20, at the Marcellus United Methodist Church.

People interested in volunteering can do so online, at www.uwsm.org/school-supply-spectacular.

“It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s fun, and you get to meet a lot of new people,” Ferrall said.

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