PHOTO STORY: Backpacks for Good event donates 700 bags filled with school supplies to Niles students

Published 8:50 am Friday, August 13, 2021

NILES — A line filled with parents and children of all ages wrapped around the Niles High School parking lot Thursday evening as a county nonprofit organization hosted an event to help get students ready to head back to the classroom.

The event was the second of three Backpacks for Good events hosted this month by the Berrien Community Foundation. The event, hosted in sponsoring partnership with the Frederick S. Upton Foundation and the DeGroot Family Foundation, gave away free school supply-filled backpacks to Niles Community Schools students. Also in attendance was a Feeding America Mobile Food Pantry, which provided bags of fresh produce and other foods to attending families.

The first Backpacks for Good event was hosted Tuesday for Brandywine Community Schools students, while an event will be hosted Aug. 19 for students from Coloma, Watervliet and Hagar schools.

“This is about school readiness and making sure kids have what they need to get ready and go back to school,” said Lisa Cripps-Downey, BCF President. “There’s a lot about, ‘let’s get excited about going back to school,’ and making sure kids are ready and feeling great about going back to school.”

At Thursday’s event, more than 700 backpacks were prepared to be donated. Any backpacks not given away Thursday night would be distributed in the community later, according to Cripps-Downey.

This year marks the third for Backpacks for Good, and the second the program has been hosted for Brandywine and Niles students. Since the program’s beginning, Cripps-Downey said it has been a success.

“I think people appreciate it, and I think kids are excited about school,” she said. “I hope we are filling a need in the community. By the end of summer, kids are growing and parents have to buy them new clothes for school and they have been paying for daycare throughout the summer. Everyone is stretched to the end. If this can help in any way, that’s great. That’s what we are hoping what we are doing.”