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Good Backpack program underway

By Steph Crosier

Students of Belleville will return to school prepared again this year with backpacks full of supplies thanks to the work of local donations.

This is the 11th year for the Good Backpack program. Together with Community Development Council of Quinte, United Way of Quinte, and Volunteer & Information Quinte kids in the area can go to school prepared.

“The Good Back pack program is a program for Hastings and Prince Edward County,” said Jessie Ward of United way of Quinte. “It’s a chance for families in those communities to get a backpack for their kids and get their kids started for school on the right foot.”

The backpacks being donated will be fully equipped with everything a student will need, said Ward. The backpacks are all different and cost $10. Inside the bag, there is $50 worth of school supplies according to grade and gender.

“The thing about this program is that it’s all community funded,” said Ruth Ingersoll of the community development council of Quinte. “We don’t get any yearly funding from anywhere for it.”

Ingersoll said that there are other Backpack programs around that do get funding. What she loves about this program is that it is completely funded by the community.

“If the community didn’t come together to support it then we wouldn’t be able to supply the backpacks,” said Ingersoll. She said that the three organizations organize everything but without the community support it wouldn’t happen.

A unique aspect of this program is that it is self-identified need. No children or families need to qualify for help. So far 800 students have been registered.

“Anybody that comes to us to register, and pays $10, can receive this backpack with school supplies in it,” said Ingersoll. “What that means is that it is inclusive to the community. As we all know, in these economic times that a lot of people are out there are working, but they are working for low wages. And even if you are working full-time, full-year you are still under the poverty line.”

Not having to qualify for help is a big part of the program, said Ingersoll. People who are working, but still under the poverty line, do not qualify for welfare or social assistance because they are working. So a program like this really supports them.

People in the community can donate two ways. They can buy the required equipment at Staples in Belleville or send a monetary donation. Also, this weekend is the Stuff the Bus fundraiser at Quinte Mall. All the school supplies will be stuffed into a bus trying to fill it. Registered families can then pick up their new backpacks at a later date.