Backpack Project turns five

For the fifth year in a row, a local woman has led a group effort to help supply children in need with back-to-school supplies with what has become known as “the Backpack Project.”

Five years ago Ann Schinski had an idea inspired by a concern and did something about it. Many hands come together each year to get this effort rolling in the hope of helping parents of children in need get the necessary supplies for school, Schinski said. The groups gather donations to try to give every child who comes to the pick-up day a backpack with everyday school items. Pick up days will be in two locations this year, the Wells Village School and Granville High School. Parents are asked to bring their kids to get the right backpack and check for fit.

The coverage area for the project grows each year. As one of the many people who have lives on both sides of the state border, Schinski said, she considers herself a Vermonter and a Granville resident at the same time and as such wants to help kids in the school system.

Now students from the Granville School District, the Wells (Vt.) Village School and Mettawee Community School in Pawlet, Vt., who might not be able to afford their own school supplies can come to the two pick up days Sunday, Aug. 6 (Wells) and 13 (Granville), from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In memory of her late husband Steve’s passing in 2006, Schinski began collecting funds to help parents re-stock their kids for the school year after hearing about the ever-increasing cost of supplies from co-workers.

During the project’s first year in 2007, Schinski said, she pulled together enough donations from local businesses to outfit 50 children with backpacks with supplies.

After experiencing a much greater need than the supply could handle, Schinski worked to grow the endeavor.

In 2008, the effort more than doubled as 125 packs went out the door. And then in 2009 the 200 backpack goal was reached. In 2010, more than 200 backpacks went out to kids in the school district and Schneider said she would not be surprised to top 300 supply-filled packs this year.

The local Citizens Bank branches in West Pawlet, Vt., and Poultney, Vt., combine their supply gathering efforts with the local annual Backpack Project. Branch manager Harry Haldt said donations of supplies and time by colleagues from these branches add to the effort, he said. 

“We do ‘Gear For Grades’ and bank-wide program done for years throughout our footprint … here we’ve decided to partner up with them to make our program here support their program,” Haldt said. Look for boxes in the lobby of those branches.

This year, Citizens Bank is again collecting supplies and making donations to the Backpack Project. The bank will be donating more than 125 backpacks and related school supplies for underprivileged children in the area. The West Pawlet and Poultney branches are currently accepting donations of supplies from the public and their customers. 

To donate to the backpack project, or ask a question, call Schinski at 802-645-9964 or Gwen Schneider at 642-3469. 

Donations to the project can be made by sending a check made payable to “The Backpack Project” c/o TD Bank, 6 Main St. Granville, N.Y. 12832.

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