Tools for School in Red Deer saw a little over 2000 backpacks given out last year, and that need hasn’t decreased this year.
Darcy Ouellet, fund development officer with Women’s Outreach, said the increase in number of backpacks given out last year was an almost 18% increase over the year prior.
“I associate Tools for School almost the same as Christmas; there’s a lot of families that are paycheck to paycheck and at back to school time with three kids it’s three, four, or five hundred dollars. Something’s got to fall behind whether that’s food, rent, utilities, whatever the case may be. Or the kids just don’t get it at all,” said Ouellet.
The program started just under two weeks ago and they’ve already given out 600 backpacks for the upcoming school year.
Ouellet said the program helps add some normality to these families who otherwise couldn’t afford the required items for their children to go to school. “It’s just one less thing that they have to worry about.”
Volunteers are in high demand for the program to continue operating and Ouellet said they’ve had to turn away families seeking backpacks for certain age ranges because they just don’t have the man power to keep up.
“Really a lot of [what we need] is volunteers right now to pack,” said Ouellet. “[Tools for School] is 100% donation and volunteer driven so if I don’t have donations and I don’t have volunteers, then I don’t have backpacks.”
Backpacks are being given out nearly as quickly as they are being packed, said Ouellet. “It’s a tangible program, you can actually see the results of what’s happening with it.”
Items that the program is in continuous need of include the higher price items like backpacks, binders and duo tangs. Ouellet added that some of the smaller items are easier to purchase on an as-needed basis.
Monetary donations are encouraged as Ouellet said the room in which Tools for School is housed is fairly small. “I can never have all the supplies in there at one time, we wouldn’t be able to move.”
Because Staples takes donations at the till, Ouellet said it’s valuable when people donate through there because he gets a credit to the store. “The nice thing with monetary donations is I buy what I actually need. When I go I just work off the credit so if I need erasers or highlighters for example.”
He added that the community support is felt year-round, including Shoppers Drug Mart in Olds donating a truck-load of paper at the end of the last school year.
Donations can be made at Women’s Outreach and volunteers can contact Ouellet at 403-347-2480 or by emailing [email protected]
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