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Kids get a boost with free packs

August 23, 1999

Staples: Free back packsBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




Hundreds of needy children got free backpacks filled with school supplies at the Staples store on Wesel Boulevard Sunday.

"We didn't want to see any students start their first day without having what they need," said Lesley Smith, chairwoman of Staples Associates Community Involvement Team, a group of the company's employees.

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Smith said she learned from another organization, Children In Need, that 653 Washington County children went to school without proper supplies last year. In response, SACIT bought backpacks and filled them with supplies donated by Staples.

To reach the neediest families, Staples contacted the Washington County Board of Education's Student Services Department. The School Board divided up 750 backpacks among the schools.

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"We looked at each school and its needs," said Jeanette Kaufmann, pupil personnel worker. For example, larger schools got more backpacks. Each school was allotted a set number.

Administrators called parents to get their permission. "We couldn't just give Staples names," said Kaufmann. The store compiled a roster of about 624 names.

The company also got lists of supplies needed for each grade level. For example, a fifth-grader's backpack came loaded with notebooks, loose-leaf paper, dividers, highlighters, crayons, rulers, binders and book covers.

Kaufmann said families started lining up at 9:40 a.m. Sunday, 20 minutes before the giveaway was scheduled to begin. A group of several volunteers from Staples set up tables in front of the store with a list of names for each school.

By noon, about half the listed kids had stopped by, according to Smith. Some could be seen wearing the red bags proudly in the parking lot.

Brenda Herrera of Hagerstown got supplies for two of her children, a kindergartner and a third-grader at Pangborn Elementary School. "Any little penny helps," she said. The donation was more than she expected.

"I thought it was just going to be a backpack and a couple pencils," she said.

Children whose names were not on the original list were put on a waiting list, Smith said. Any unclaimed backpacks at the end of the day will be given to those on the waiting list, she said.

Another 126 leftover backpacks without supplies will also be sent to schools. Parents of needy children should contact their schools, Smith said.

Staples is also sponsoring a promotion with the Hagerstown Suns on Aug. 29. The first 1,000 children visiting the ballgame will get free backpacks.

Smith said the donations helped ensure all students this year will be prepared, regardless of their family's income. "We have not reached all the (needy) children, but we reached the majority," she said. "We did a good job."

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