Vikings assemble backpacks for students

NILES — Filled backpacks in bright red, yellows, greens, blues and pinks lined the entrance to a room at Niles High School on Wednesday afternoon. Inside, high school students were spaced out at stations loading different supplies into the backpacks. Boxes of fresh crayons, notebooks and pencils were emptied into the more than 1,000 backpacks the students were preparing.

The students were volunteering with the Berrien Community Foundation to help students prepare for the fall as a part of the foundation’s Backpacks for Goods event. The goal is to provide backpacks filled with school supplies to students enrolled in both the Brandywine Community Schools and Niles Community Schools. The event was in preparation for next events to be hosted 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11 at the Niles High School parking lot for Niles Community Schools students, and 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20 at the Brandywine High School parking lot for Brandywine Community Schools. At each event, parents or guardians can drive thru with their child, let the volunteers know which school and what grade the student is in, and they can get a backpack in the color they choose filled with supplies for their grade.

“Remember how important that was?” said BCF president Lisa Cripps-Downey. “We let them pick the color of the backpack.”

“We know that, in one way or another, kids are going to be returning to school and need to be ready to learn,” Cripps-Downey said. “Whether it is in person or at home, they need the supplies to be successful and stay organized.

Putting the backpacks together, district volunteer coordinator for Niles Community Schools Darla Schneider said the students were eager to help.

“We’ve got [students] from the athletic teams, National Honor Society,” Schneider said. “On Monday night, we had FFA in here helping out with some of it. They’ve been asking how they can help, and if they can bring a friend.”

The backpack events for both the Niles and Brandywine community schools were done with a partnership between the BCF and the Frederick S. Upton Foundation.

There will be a Backpacks for Good event hosted from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18, at Coloma High School for students from Coloma, Waterlivet and Hagar #6 schools.

At each event, the Feeding America Mobile Food Pantry will be on-site to help families with boxes of produce, dairy and baked goods. There will also be an opportunity to fill out the 2020 Census.

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