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Giving back(packs): school supplies donated for lower income students

GREENFIELD — About 450 of the county’s less fortunate students will go to school this fall with new backpacks filled with supplies through the kindness of those who participated in this year’s United Way of Franklin County “It’s Blooming Backpacks” event.

According to the United Way Executive Director Linda Stacy, the number of backpacks collected this year was more than any other year of the annual campaign that began in 2005. Stacy said 102 backpacks were collected at the recent “It’s Blooming Backpacks” event.

She said 30 of the 102 backpacks collected at that event last week were collected from members of the YMCA in Greenfield. Stacy said before the event even happened, 61 backpacks filled with school supplies had been dropped off to UW, while 34 were donated since the event, including 30 from employees of Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

In addition, 153 backpacks and several large boxes of school supplies were donated by employees of Yankee Candle Co. Stacy said Yankee Candle has told her it will donate an additional 100 backpacks next week.

“This is so amazing,” said Stacy. “Kids whose parents couldn’t have afforded an expensive backpack, or even a few supplies, will go to school with nice new ones and enough pens and pencils probably to get them through the entire year.”

Stacy said Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County, the United ARC, Community Action and a couple of other local agencies, including Montague Catholic Social Ministries and Franklin Regional Housing Authority, will distribute the backpacks before school starts. She said UW will probably drop some off at Leyden Woods.

“It’s great to see individuals and companies from around the county care so much,” said Stacy. “This is our best year yet. Unbelievable!”

The project started as a group of women who decided they wanted to do something for the county’s lower-income students.

“We kept getting calls from people and companies and organizations that wanted to help, so it grew,” said Stacy. “It’s a great opportunity for people and companies who want to do something for their community. We have more and more jumping on board each year. It’s fun, it’s easy and it’s meaningful.”

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