Rotary Supports Backpack Project

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Rotary boosts backpack project

About 20 members of the Rotary Club of Amherst got together last week to stuff 90 backpacks with notebooks, pencils, rulers and markers.

Then they delivered the backpacks to the Regional Middle School where they will be distributed to elementary students from low-income families the week of Aug. 29.

"It didn't take a lot of effort, and the reward of being able to give 90 backpacks to kids who need them is really great," said Rotarian Jocelyn Potter, who organized the supply purchases with fellow club member Ellen Carey.

The Rotary contribution is part of a larger effort the schools are making to provide supplies for children who need them. As of Monday, the middle school had collected 150 filled backpacks to be given out. Last year, 198 students received full packs.

In addition to the backpacks, the schools received $500 from the Amherst Lions Club to buy more. The Amherst Club, Rep. Ellen Story, Sen. Stan Rosenberg and a group of sales representatives for W.B. Mason, the office supplies company, also made financial donations.

"Our goal is to help ease the financial burden the beginning of the school year can mean for families who are struggling," said Marta Guevara, the schools' director of intervention.

The local Rotary Club came up with $500 for the project, a sum which was matched by the organization's parent district, said President Irv Rhodes. With $1,000 to spend, Potter and Carey cleaned out the Wal-Mart store in Hadley of its elementary-school backpacks, and then did the same at the Wal-Mart in Northampton. Potter said her mother went to a discount store in Keene, N.H. to buy more.

They also bought school supplies, and on Aug. 4 the Rotarians set up an assembly line to put them in the backpacks, she said.

Donations of new backpacks and supplies at the Regional Middle School will be accepted up to Sept. 2. They can also be dropped off at Edward Jones Financial Advisors, 17 Pray St.; DeMaio Orthodontics, 23 Pray St.; Lone Wolf restaurant, 63 Main St., and The Sub, 33 East Pleasant St.

Income-eligible parents can contact Kim Stender at 362-1825 up to Sept. 2 to sign up to receive backpacks for their children.

In addition to backpacks, the schools are seeking donations of assignment books, construction paper, crayons, dictionaries, erasers, folders, markers, pencils, pens and rulers. For secondary students, the schools are also seeking donations of three-ring binders, calculators, combination locks and graph paper.