Backpacks ease back-to-school burden

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Golden State Foods Foundation employee Bo Holmes delivers school supplies to Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, which last week received supplies alongside Hillpoint Elementary.

Provisioning students for the new school year can be costly, but the local branch of a national nonprofit foundation is helping Suffolk parents meet the challenge.

This year, the Golden States Food Foundation has purchased backpacks and school supplies to go inside, for every first-grader at Elephant’s Fork and Hillpoint elementary schools.

Additionally, “I actually saved a few backpacks and I want to check with a few of the homeless places … and maybe drop off a few there for them,” said Darlene Wilson, chair of the backpack program in Suffolk.

Email newsletter signup

The program runs across the country with the help of United Stationers, which supplies the backpacks and what goes inside them at a heavy discount.

“The purpose is to make sure that children start off in the first grade having all the supplies that they need … to be prepared to learn,” Wilson said.

Schools taking part in the program are asked to supply the foundation with information on test scores, to see what impact it has on academic performance, Wilson said.

“We’re hoping that if we can prove that there’s a positive correlation” between first-graders receiving backpacks and higher test scores, new major sponsors will get on board, she said.

School counselor Crystal Whitley coordinated the program for Elephant’s Fork. The single mother whose daughter is a first-grader said that the backpacks make a significant difference to parents’ budgets.

“It helps us quite a lot,” she said. “It really did save me money as a parent.”

Backpacks contain items like colored pencils, glue sticks, construction paper and composition books.

“It can be pretty expensive, especially the backpack itself,” Whitley continued. “My daughter’s from last year is still in pretty good shape, and I was planning to use that, but just having a back-up is helpful, because kids are hard on their backpacks.

“I think my daughter went through three last year; they really do use and abuse them.”

The foundation is an extension of Golden State Foods, which has a location on Progress Road, and has also ordered 90 winter coats for Suffolk children, Wilson said.

It will be reaching out to local schools soon to see how many coats they could use.

The foundation also has a Christmas program, Shoes That Fit, which distributes shoes for children.