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Working to stuff backpacks for students back to school

A return to school this fall is still very much tenuous and rife with uncertainty as September inches closer.

Despite the lingering coronavirus issues, local organizations want kids to be as prepared as possible for whatever classes may look like when the time comes.

To aid those who may need some extra assistance, Woolwich Community Services (WCS) and the Woolwich Community Health Centre (WCHC) are offering up their annual backpack programs.

For many years, both organizations have worked to provide low-income families, and those who may not have all the necessary school items, a backpack stuffed with the supplies needed to return to school. As COVID-19 may have caused some additional financial stress, both organizations are ensuring that no kid has to go back to school this fall without being completely prepared.

“We know that parents struggle, and they need assistance with purchasing things in school – buying things for school can add up very quickly. And if we can help out in any way, then that’s what we’re here for. Just to ease the parents and the stress on getting ready for school for them,” said Tina Reed, community support co-ordinator with WCS. “Times are different, right now, and the stresses are different, [however] the kids going back to school kids still want the fun backpack and the fun pencil crayons and the fun pencil case that they can take to school, starting in September. No matter what it looks like.”

Rosslyn Bentley, executive director with WCHC, says the program is something they offer “in a way to help support people’s dignity.” They do this through working with local agencies that help them identify those people who may be most at need.

Backpacks and all school items are either purchased or donated by local businesses and community members who want to help. Each year kids receive a backpack, lunch bag, school supplies – including notebooks, pencil crayons, calculators and more – to help them throughout their year. Each organization creates backpacks for students in certain grade brackets with kids in kindergarten getting different items from those in Grades 1 to Grade 8 and the more advanced students in high school.

WCS normally averages about 125 backpacks each year, with WCHC putting togehter about 60. Items are needed for the different age groups and both are asking for donations of items or money to help support with the purchase.

Donations can be made at WCS – 5 Memorial Ave. in Elmira until August 14, or at the Wellesley Township Community Health Centre – 1180 Queen’s Bush Rd. Those who donate $25 or more are eligible for a tax receipt.

Because of COVID-19, things will be running a little differently this year for both programs.

Those who may need a backpack this year are asked to register for a timeslot to make their pickup.

People in the Woolwich area can register until August 18 for their backpacks by calling WCS at 519-669-5139.

Those in the Wellesley area can call or text Sue Martin at 519-504-1878 or email smartin1562@gmail.com to register. Registration for the Wellesley program runs until early September.

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