West Hartford’s Social Service Department is preparing to distribute about 650 backpacks as part of its ‘Back to School’ program.
By Ronni Newton
The Town of West Hartford’s Social Services Department is preparing for its August “Back to School” program when approximately 650 new backpacks will be distributed to local students in need, and is looking to the community for additional donations.
“There is need, and sometimes we forget but when we put it out there people always respond. We are so appreciative,” said Community Partnership Coordinator Suzanne Oslander.
The program has been growing, and has served more than 650 children – all from West Hartford – over the past few years. Oslander anticipates a similar number, if not more, will require backpacks this year.
In addition to the backpacks, students are given gift cards so that they can purchase the appropriate school supplies for their grade and classroom.
Morley School held its annual Backpack Brigade on June 14, and hand-delivered 337 backpacks to Town Hall, which made a major dent in the need for donations. The school also raised $4,083, which will be used to fund the purchase of gift cards and additional backpacks as needed.
The first distribution of the backpacks will be Aug. 3, when students can come “shop” at the Town Hall Auditorium. There will be other distributions throughout the month of August, and Oslander said that sometimes there are requests during the school year as well.
“We don’t simply hand a child a backpack. Kids can pick a backpack that fits their personality and their need,” Oslander said. Staff will be on hand to assist and make sure the backpack is the correct size for the student.
New backpacks of all types are needed, but Volunteer Coordinator Barbara Roberts said there is a particular need for larger backpacks for middle and high school students.
Donations, which will be accepted until the start of school, can be dropped off in the lobby of Town Hall at the Information Desk (not on the Food Pantry desk), Roberts said, or dropped off in Room 306 weekdays between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m.
“Please attach a paper with your name and address so we can thank you,” Roberts said.
Families that are in need of donated backpacks and school supplies should register with Social Services by calling Oslander at 860-561-7580 or emailing her at [email protected].
Financial donations to the Town That Cares Fund, to purchase gift cards for school supplies and address other needs of residents are also appreciated, and information about how to donate can be found on the Town of West Hartford website.
“It really brings them tremendous joy,” Oslander said of the backpack distribution program. “It’s great to see the kids smiling and ready to go back to school.”
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