After completing the 8th successful year of the backpack project, organizers are hoping to expand the program for next year. Since its inception in 2007, backpacks and supplies have been provided to K-5 students whose families qualify for free lunch under federal guidelines. Some school supplies are also donated to the Pine River School for Young Learners and 4K sites. The distribution site relocated this year from the T.B. Scott Library Community room to the PRMS cafeteria to allow for more space for families and supplies.
One of the goals for next year is to expand to include middle school students. Merrill Forward Together Healthy Community Initiative (MFTHCI) is raising money now to fund the expansion. If enough donations are received, the organization will include PRMS students starting next summer.
“Businesses, organizations, and community members have been very supportive of this project and there is a need to include middle school students who qualify. If we raise the funds necessary, grades 6-8 will be added to the project,” notes one of the coordinators, Linda Becker. “It might be an expansion that will occur over a few years, where we add one grade at a time. Families don’t stop being in need just because students leave elementary school, so we’re hoping to make this a reality in 2015.”
Another goal for next year is to have the distribution date earlier in the summer. This would give families more time to shop the back-to-school sales for supplies not provided by the program.
The organization is also seeking volunteers to help with the annual project. If you would like to lend a hand, contact Debi McGregor at the Family Resource Center at (715) 539-9228 or Linda Becker at (715) 873-4564. Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to MFTHCI-Backpacks, PO Box 793 in Merrill.