Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Backpacks for Kids

This is an article that was in the Ventura County Star about my Rotary Club's very successful Backpacks for Kids event:

Ventura volunteers efforts’ help students start school fully supplied

Because of the work of volunteers, 850 students throughout Ventura will be strapping on new backpacks stocked up with new school supplies this school year.

On Saturday, about 30 volunteers spent the morning filling backpacks to be given to select elementary, middle and high school students who many not have otherwise been able to afford the back-to-school supplies.

“It’s our responsibility to educate our students,” said Joseph Richards, Ventura Unified School District’s business services assistant superintendent and event volunteer. “The students are going to get a better education when they have the tools they need to succeed.”

A collaborative effort led this year by the Rotary Club of Ventura and the Downtown Lions Club, the Backpacks for Kids program benefits any child in need in Ventura schools. The program has been offered to the city’s students for 10 years.

Before classes each year, program organizers ask school leaders to provide supply lists and the number of students they think need supplies.

The program continues to grow as the lists get longer, according to Irene Henry, Rotary Club president. Last year, volunteers put together 650 backpacks.

“We all benefit if our kids are getting a better education,” Henry said.

The program is a three-month effort to coordinate, starting with the organizations collecting donations to ensure every student who needs supplies, will receive them. The Rotary Club contributed the largest monetary donation of $6,200, according to Henry.

Volunteers teamed up to get all the backpacks assembled Saturday and ready for delivery to participating schools.

In all, 22 schools will receive backpacks to hand out to students. The number of students ranges from three at Loma Vista and Pierpont schools up to 150 at DeAnza Academy of Technology and the Arts.

 “I want to help as many kids as possible get ready for the school year,” said volunteer and teacher Anna Belitski, of Ventura.

The educator was joined by her husband Danny Belitski and two children, Drayden, 5, and Dylan, 7. Before the Belitski family and the other volunteers formed an assembly line to put together the bags, bins and tall piles of new notebooks, markers and other supplies stood across two U-shaped sections of tables. The volunteers would file through grabbing an empty backpack to take to each supply pile and put at least one of each supply into the bag.

Each bag was checked to make sure it was not missing anything.

When the packing was complete, the backpacks were stacked across the other end of the room.
Crystalin Boggs, 25, of Modesto, said she was happy knowing she was helping kids. Boggs has volunteered for the past three years.

“When I was growing up it was hard,” Boggs said. “I know how people need backpacks and supplies. I’m glad we are helping other kids who need help.”