To Fill a Backpack

‘To Fill A Backpack’ collections begin July 12

Now in its third year, the “To Fill a Backpack” program will begin its collection of 2010-2011 supplies and monetary donations July 12, with the campaign running through Sept. 30.

A variety of school supplies are needed for the program, which provides backpacks and school supplies to children and families in need from kindergarten through high school age in Potter, McKean and Tioga county communities.

In addition to providing items needed for school, the backpacks serve as a self-esteem booster for children whose families might otherwise be unable to afford the items.

Backpacks are distributed in Coudersport, Roulette, Austin, Galeton, Port Allegany, Shinglehouse, Ulysses, Eldred and Smethport. Wellsboro has been added to the list for this year, and organizers also hope to expand to Bradford, although volunteers are needed to serve as coordinators there.

Coordinators and dropoff locations are also needed in the Emporium area in order to further expand the program there. The program provides informational brochures, flyers, etc., with the coordinators helping to organize fundraisers for the area, find locations to distribute flyers and to serve as drop off locations for supplies. Coordinators also pick up items from the dropoff points and help distribute the backpacks to the children/families in need when the time arrives.  Coordinators are not required to take care of monetary donations, as these should be mailed to the Backpack office. Those interested may contact the program by phone or email.

“The more people we can get to help the more children that we are able to help,” noted Andy Kulp of Roulette, one of the program’s founders.

Last year, the program distributed 372 backpacks in nine different towns. Items included in the packs are markers, pencil sharpeners, pencils (#2 yellow), single subject notebooks, two-pocket portfolios, notebook filler paper, three-ring binders (1”-1.5”), Kleenex (small packs), crayons, highlighters, glue sticks, erasers, rulers, index cards, colored pencils, small hand sanitizers and coloring books. Backpacks for elementary age children include different supplies from the high school bags.

“We try to supply the children with the main supplies needed for school,” remarked coordinator Andy Kulp of Roulette. Those donating supplies are asked to avoid gender specific items because there is not enough time to differentiate and mark them when packing the bags; volunteers need to be able to just mark them for high school or elementary.

Organizers collect supplies and monetary donations and fill the backpacks, but they do not decide who receives them – the person in need makes the decision. Most are sent to churches, family centers, etc., to be distributed. Kulp noted that there are some personal requests and referrals.

“We ask no personal information from anyone…if you ask for a backpack we will give you one. We trust that those asking for a backpack are truly in need of one and not just asking because it is there. We figure that if 95% of the backpacks that are distributed go to people that actually need them, we are doing well,” he added.

Homeschooled children are also eligible for backpacks; organizers maintain that those children have the same needs as children attending public schools.

“People have been very generous with their donations,” Kulp observed. “Any child who asks for a backpack will never hear ‘Sorry, but we are out of backpacks.’ With the monetary donations that are received, there should always be a backpack for whoever asks for one — one way or the other the child will get a backpack!

“We started this program to assure that all our children had the supplies, etc. that they needed when they went to school.  We feel the program has done what we set out for it to do the last two years and we hope that with the continued support we will be able to grow bigger, and be sure that we are here to help send children to school with the supplies they need,” Kulp concluded.

Although the primary campaign runs through September, donations are accepted at any time.

Drop off locations for those wishing to donate supplies are: Perry’s Country Store in Austin; Coudersport Public Library, KOS, Inc., Gauld’s Corner Store, all of Coudersport; Potter County Education Council Galeton office; Suzy Pire in Oswayo; Arnot Childcare & Learning Center and Everyday Happy-nings, Port Allegany; Eldred Boro Office in Eldred; Drabee’s Mini Mart, Roulette; Ed’s Service and Northwest Savings Bank, Shinglehouse.

Monetary donations should be mailed to: To Fill A Backpack – Attn: Donations, 81 Burleson Avenue, Roulette, PA  16746.

For more information or to make suggestions, contact Andy Kulp, 544-8032; email info@tofillabackpack.org; visit the website, www.tofillabackpack.org; or send a note to: To Fill A Backpack, 81 Burleson Avenue, Roulette, PA  16746.


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