(CHATHAM, ON) – Although the current school year is winding down, Operation BackPacks is already underway. The program aims to provide local children with new backpacks and grade-appropriate school supplies, the tools they need to achieve academic success, and to help alleviate the financial stress parents face each new school year.
Operation BackPacks was started by staff of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance Emergency Department, in 2001, after learning about a similar program that was running in another community. That first year they distributed 26 backpacks.
Since then, the program has steadily grown, adding additional partners along the way, including the Kiwanis Club, United Way, Service Canada, Union Gas, banks, and others, to address the increasing need in the community.
Service providers came together in 2004 to ensure that families get the help they need through a more centrally co-ordinated and collective effort. United Way was asked to take the lead and currently provides administrative support for referrals from agencies, schools, and parents, centralization of supply ordering, and volunteer recruitment for assembling and delivering backpacks to schools and communities.
With support from Giant Tiger, Staples, United Way of Chatham-Kent’s Women’s Leadership Council, and numerous local organizations and businesses, Operation BackPacks strives to serve every child and family in need throughout Chatham-Kent.
Parents or guardians can request a backpack for their children online or by visiting the United Way of Chatham-Kent. Registration forms have been sent to all schools. Parents can also call 519-354-0430 to speak with the project co-ordinator. All personal information is kept private and confidential.
You can support the program by donating money, supplies, or your time. The easiest way is to sponsor one or multiple backpacks at $25 each.
Sponsoring a backpack allows co-ordinators to monitor the quantity of supplies and ensure each child receives the supplies they need based on their grade level. You can also donate your time by volunteering to help pack and distribute backpacks during the last week of August.
For more information about how you can become involved, call 519-354-0430 or email.