Stuff the Bus

backpackThe United Way of Aroostook has teamed up with the Aroostook County Action Program to help 100 Aroostook County students from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds get off on the right foot this school year, through what’s become known as the “backpack project.”

“I was notified on July 30 that the United Way of Aroostook would be receiving 100 backpacks from L.L. Bean, headquartered in Freeport. This is the second year the company has contributed to our efforts in helping County children start off their school year on the right foot,” said Claudia Stevens, UWA executive director. “ ”The L.L. Bean representative said the donation was being made provided we saw they got into the hands of children in need.” Stevens said it was up to UWA to fill them with school supplies. Once the UWA approved the funds, my assistant, Missy Nadeau, and I went shopping. We purchased notebooks, paper, rulers, pencils, pens, calculators, pencil sharpeners, colored pencils, index cards – whatever a child might need during a regular day at school,” Stevens said.

“We spent about $850 on school supplies – all bought locally,” noted Stevens. “The backpacks are valued over $3,500. So you’re looking at a project valued at over $4,000 – money families, who are struggling to make ends meet, don’t have to come up with as the school year gets underway.” ACAP Child and Family Services will be in charge of distributing the backpacks to families throughout Aroostook.

“They’re intended for middle school and high school students. We’ll leave it up to Sue Powers and her group at ACAP to determine distribution,” said Stevens. Stevens had help Friday loading the filled backpacks onto an ACAP bus. Assisting her were” Christine Condon, ACAP HeadStart; Mary Lawrence, UWA board member; and Bonnie Foster, who serves on both the UWA and ACAP boards.

The backpacks came in a variety of colors, including: blue, purple, green and red. “The bigger ones were for the high school kids, while the lighter ones will go to students in junior high,” said Stevens.

“This is a collaborative effort – one made possible through the generosity of L.L. Bean and with ACAP’s help distributing the totes in time for school,” said Stevens. “ACAP will see that they’re distributed throughout The County, helping children who might otherwise have to do without. Learning can be difficult enough; this will ensure a good start for those most in need for the 2014-2015 school year.”