Backpack effort short on cash

By Jessica Cejnar August 13, 2012 09:46 pm

People had started lining up at 7 a.m. 

By 9 a.m. the line was snaking out the door, through the parking lot and almost reaching the road when the Del Norte Family Resource Center held its backpack giveaway last year.

Hundreds of families received a backpack stuffed with pencils, crayons, glue, folders and other supplies to see their kids through the school year. Every child who showed up left with a backpack, Executive Director Jennifer England said. But that may not be the case this year.

The Family Resource Center gave out 654 backpacks last year. Community members left with 523 backpacks in 2010. In 2009 when the giveaway started, the resource center gave out 498 backpacks.

This year the center has received enough donations for 325 backpacks — half of what the resource center gave out last year, England said. The giveaway is scheduled Aug. 29. Already people are calling the center to make sure it will be held this year.

“I’m worried about this year,” England said. “Every year there are more and more people who need them.”

“People started calling last month because they’re so used to getting them,”  Facilities Coordinator Cathy Tryon added.

Last year the resource center increased the number of backpacks it was able to give away thanks to a donation of 600 JanSport bags from Sutter Coast Hospital, England said. Another woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, walked into the facility with $3,000 in cash. 

The center usually raises about $5,000 for the backpacks. The money is used to purchase school supplies including calculators and binders, England said. 

The center also purchased preschool backpacks adorned with characters such as Tinker Bell and Hello Kitty, Tryon said. The resource center’s goal this year is to raise $5,000 and give away at least 600 backpacks.

“We’re positive 300-plus will be gone within 40 minutes,” she said.

There are no requirements to receive a backpack, England said. They are given out on a first-come, first-served basis.

So far, Tryon said, the Family Resource Center has raised $1,000 for the backpacks. The center has ordered 325 backpacks and hopes to purchase more by raising more money.

“We’re probably in the hole about $4,000,” Tryon said.

The resource center was also able to use about $2,000 from last year’s donations to offset the cost of this year’s backpack giveaway, she said.

One way the center has been raising money for the backpacks is by installing a wishing well at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds, Tryon said. The center hopes to display similar wishing wells throughout the community as well as at the resource center, she said. Those typically generate from $200 to $300 in change. 

People can bring backpacks and school supplies to the Del Norte Family Resource Center, 494 Pacific Ave. England said new or gently used backpacks are accepted. People can also visit the center’s website at www.dnfrc.org and donate via Pay Pal.

“Just a pad of paper is appreciated,” she said. “We’ve had people come in and say here’s a pack of pencils. That’s terrific!”

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