Full Backpacks Lighten the Load

Posted on 08.13.13 – Insider, Lifestyles

Back-to-school sales have started in earnest, but for some parents the ritual of getting their kids ready for classes is complicated by not having the money for such everyday items as notebooks, pens and pencils. That’s why a community-wide effort of churches, social agencies, individuals, businesses and Frederick County Public Schools is once again ready to help. Last year, close to 1,400 needy students received free backpacks filled with school supplies. In Frederick city, 826 students were well-stocked when schools opened.

The Rev. Brian Scott, who heads the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, says the group’s efforts to outfit city students “is extremely important. It’s a once a year event and is an opportunity to make a difference.”

Eileen McGrath, coordinator for the school’s Community Agency School Services (CASS), recalls that the distributions “are always a great day. Everyone is in a good mood and excited about the start of a new school year. It’s particularly fun to watch the children pick out their backpacks or their favorite color folder. Parents are also so appreciative because, with the economic downturn, many are forced to make tough choices like paying the rent or putting food on the table … the ritual of back-to-school shopping is a bonding one for families and something that local communities in Frederick County are keeping alive through donations and volunteerism.”

CASS has joined with various segments of the community since the mid 1990s to provide school supplies. Several years ago the United Way joined in with a “Stuff the Bus” campaign to get local business groups involved in filling a school bus with supplies. One company taking part is Battelle National Biodefense Institute, which has participated since 2007. This year it donated 1,000 backpacks.

Supplies that are needed include backpacks, ruled paper, pens, pencils, crayons, glue sticks, highlighters, folders, a pencil box or zippered pouch, index cards, three-ring binders, composition books and safety scissors for elementary students.

The Rev. Dr. Barbara Kershner Daniel, pastor of Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ, who co-ordinates the Religious Coalition’s effort says, “It is in keeping with our mission. We are able to provide a respectful environment in which children and their families can receive supplies that will empower our young people to learn and grow.”

She says that last year about 60 people, ranging from elementary students to retirees, volunteered to help with the distribution in Frederick. Nearly two dozen students from The Temple, A Paul Mitchell Partner School, took part, along with the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek, Girl Scout Troop 81024 and members of Evangelical Reformed.

For more information about dropping off supplies or volunteering to help during the various distributions early this month, contact the following:

Brunswick Ecumenical Assistance Committee on Needs (BEACON), 301-834-9718
Catoctin feeder schools, Jennifer Harbaugh, 240-236-1764
The Religious Coalition, Sara Ryan, 301-631-2670
Linganore, Oakdale and Urbana feeder schools, Jo Ostby, [email protected]
Middletown feeder schools, Middletown Valley People Helping People, 301-371-3119
Walkersville feeder schools, Glade Valley Community Services, 301-845-0213.