1,000 backpacks to help kids start back to school

Backpacks are stacked up to be given to families.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

Angela Jones, of Weston, had no idea how she was going to afford school supplies for her six children this year. She found the answer with a little help from local agencies, businesses and churches.

Mary Jane Perez, of Perrysburg, agonized over those same concerns for her five grandchildren. She estimated it would cost at least $300 to get the grandchildren started in school.

“It’s very expensive right now,” Perez said.

But her mind was eased a bit Wednesday as she carried out five new backpacks loaded with school supplies. Her grandchildren tried them on and checked out the contents.

“I picked mine out,” her youngest granddaughter said, showing off her pink camo print backpack.

Jesus Perez checks out his new backpack.

Jones picked out bookbags for her children, and said each child had also gotten vouchers for new shoes to start off the school year. Her worries, however, were not over. “I don’t even know how I’m going to get them clothes this year.”

More than 500 backpacks were ready for families to pick up Wednesday at the Back to School Fair at Woodland Mall, organized by the Salvation Army and United Way. The fair was scheduled to start at 3 p.m.

“At 1 o’clock they started showing up,” said Sue Clanton, director of United Way of Wood County. Half of the 500 bags were gone in the first hour, she said. “School supplies are a huge thing for families.”

Earlier this week, an additional 500 backpacks, stuffed with school supplies were given out by Wood County Job and Family Services to families who could show financial need. Sixty vouchers were also given to children to go shopping for new shoes. Kids were also given socks, hats and gloves for colder weather.

Those backpacks also had some hygiene items tucked in, like soap, shampoo and toothpaste, said Shannon Fisher and RoxAnn Neifer, both of Job and Family Services.

“A lot of the schools were telling us kids are coming to school without using hygiene products,” Neifer said.

“They were ecstatic,” Neifer said about the children’s reactions as they opened up the backpacks.

“There was one girl really excited about a toothbrush,” Fisher said.

Fisher estimated it costs about $100 to fill an average school backpack. “And that’s just general supplies,” she said.

That’s why local organizations try to help families send their children off to school with the right supplies, said Harley Maddox, head of the Salvation Army in Bowling Green.

“They are incredibly expensive, especially if you have multiple kids,” Maddox said, as she stacked bookbags on Wednesday. “It’s a huge cost for parents, especially those struggling to pay bills.”

So in addition to the backpacks, local businesses, churches and community groups donated notebooks, markers, pens, crayons, glue, scissors and headphones – all items on school supply lists for the start of the year.

“I think the response was really, really good,” Maddox said. “The community does amazing work when it comes to tools for schools.”

Other agencies were also on hand at the Back to School Fair, Wednesday, with information on services such as health care, child care, rent and utility assistance, early intervention services, and out-of-school programming.