By Tara Cavanaugh
Look into any school, and you’ll see as many of them as you will students: Huge ones hanging on kindergarteners, looking like oversized shells on tiny turtles. Overstuffed ones on high schoolers, filled with heavy volumes and covered in patches and pins.
Backpacks. They are a quintessential item for students. Yet for many families, they’re impossible to afford.
Luckily for Ann Arbor Public Schools students, a dedicated network of businesses, corporations and organizations donate hundreds of backpacks full of school supplies each year.
Getting an exact list of donors, or even an exact number of donations, isn’t easy: many choose to donate covertly and have been doing so for years.
Dicken Elementary, for example, can depend on Knox Church, which dropped off its seventh annual donation last week. Forty backpacks, full of pencils, crayons, books and other school supplies, will be distributed to needy students.
“Each year this is like a godsend,” said Principal Mike Madison. “It helps our kids come to school prepared each day.”
Of the 40 backpacks Dicken received, Principal Madison will distribute 25 right away. He’ll “share the wealth” with other schools that need some, and he’ll keep a few for new students who move in during the school year or who need a replacement.
Carpenter Elementary received a delivery of a dozen backpacks from Huron High School junior Tiara Coles; they were paid for and filled with supplies by the youth group at her church, Journey of Faith.
Large corporations use their profits to make large donations. Office Depot, which has distributed backpacks to AAPS for the past three years, donated 217 backpacks between Bryant, Mitchell, Pittsfield, Northside and Allen elementary schools earlier this month.
Costco, which opened its first Ann Arbor store a little over a year ago, donated 400 backpacks to Mitchell Elementary. “We’re just happy to be a part of the community,” said Jim Doglas, a senior marketer for the company.
The Ann Arbor site of ADP, Automatic Data Processing, has an employee activities committee that has donated backpacks to AAPS for “years now, I don’t even remember,” said Anita Creme-Sype, an employee. This year it dropped off 15 backpacks, a dozen lunch boxes, and hundreds of supplies such as pens, rulers, calculators and binders at the Balas administration building.
While ADP’s activities committee provides many ways for employees to donate their time or money to the community, Creme-Sype said the backpack drive is always a favorite. “People really like to donate backpacks,” she said. “It’s something they feel strongly about.”
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