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Amherst to distribute supplies-filled backpacks to income-eligible students

Distribution will take place either in the main lobby or the corridor of the school at 170 Chestnut St. from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., said Kimberly Stender, volunteer coordinator for the school system. Representatives from the Amherst police and fire departments will be there installing car seats for those who request it.

“Many local organizations have donated a ton of supplies,” said Stender, who was at the school stuffing new backpacks Monday. “We are so grateful for all the help we have received from the community.”

Last year 700 backpacks were distributed, said Marta Guevara, director of student achievement and accountability, who started the program five years ago. So far, the school has collected 500 this year. The goal is 900.

“It’s become part of the thread of our schools,” Guevara said. “Each year we hand out more and more.”

Several community groups participate, running drives to collect the backpacks and, in some cases, serving as collection points. They are the Amherst Education Foundation, the Lions Club, the Rotary Club, AmherstMedia, the Amherst Police Department, DeMaio Orthodontics, Interfaith Opportunities Network (ION), Jones Library and the United Way of Hampshire County.

The project was launched to help income-eligible families acquire the supplies that students in elementary, middle or high school need on the first day of school.

“Our goal is to help ease the financial burden the start of the school year can mean for families struggling financially,” Superintendent Maria Geryk said in a statement. “Project Backpack is made possible by the generosity of the entire community.”

In backpacks geared to pre-kindergartners through fifth-graders, supplies included are assignment books, single-subject notebooks, construction paper, an English/Spanish dictionary, an atlas, a thesaurus, erasers, two-pocket folders, glue sticks, markers, crayons, pencils, pens, colored pencils, pencil sharpeners, pencil cases, bookmarks and rulers

In backpacks for sixth through 12th-graders, supplies included are assignment books, single-subject notebooks, loose-leaf paper, graph paper, two-pocket folders, three-ring binders, three-ring pencil cases, calculators (basic, scientific or graphing), rulers, protractors, compasses, flash drives, an English dictionary, a English/Spanish dictionary, an atlas, a thesaurus, pens and pencils.

Filled backpacks may be dropped off at DeMaio Orthodontics, 23 Pray St.; in the Jones Library children’s room, 43 Amity St.; Jones Town & Country Realtors, 200 Triangle St. and at the Office of the Superintendent of Schools, 170 Chestnut St.

To request a backpack of for more information, families should contact Stender at 362-1825.

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