http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2009/08/07/diablo-views-needed-backpacks-to-start-the-school-year-off-right


Danville Express

Column - August 7, 2009

Diablo Views: Needed: Backpacks to start the school year off right

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

When did the backpack become de rigueur for school children? Sometime between my school days and those of my children. I had an assortment of books and a Peachy Folder with pockets to hold my pens and miscellany- although not very well.

Backpacks are a sturdy and convenient way to hold books, papers, pencils, erasers and everything else (hairbrush, food, phone?) needed for a day at school. They can get awfully heavy but they are as necessary for school children today as, oh, I don't know, as blackboards. I mean whiteboards. Or do I mean power point presentations?

Anyway I received some not very good news last week from Danville resident Christa Brazier, who volunteers her time to drive around seniors. She called to ask me to spread the word about an alarming situation she discovered at Monument Crisis Center, where she delivered bags of zucchini from her garden. The volunteers told her that every year they provide donated backpacks for children whose families can't afford them but this year, with the first day of school right around the corner, they only have one backpack.

Christa, a woman of action who can't say no to any request for help, is hoping that people with children getting new backpacks will collect the old ones and donate them to the Crisis Center, at 2350 Monument Blvd. in Concord, between Oak Grove Road and Detroit Avenue. Christa even offered to deliver the backpacks to Concord herself; e-mail her at jbrazier003@sbcglobal.net.

I contacted Monument Crisis Center to get some specifics. They were thrilled to hear from someone who can help to get out the word. Executive Director Sandra L. Scherer explained that they do have more than one backpack but still need hundreds.

"We have had one big donation of 50 backpacks from two generous women who also just sent a group of our kids to their first ever A's game," she e-mailed me. (The A's won and the kids thought it was because they were there. Well, who's to say it wasn't?) That first donation was placed in a storage area so apparently the volunteers who talked to Christa thought there was only one instead of 51.

Also Scherer reported Monday morning that the Crisis Center received 40 backpacks late Friday afternoon from a Girl Scout working toward her Gold Award, and other groups are working to provide backpacks, including National Charity League and the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center.

However, the Crisis Center needs 500 backpacks by mid-August and the first distribution is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 21. "Last year we did over 350 and needed many, many more," said Scherer. "So I would say we right now have 90 backpacks filled with beautiful and needed school supplies and need 400 more." People can donate the supplies or the backpacks. Or they can donate both and bring the backpacks to the center already filled and ready to go, just labeling them for the appropriate age.

"We need them from K-12th grade and there is no better feeling than actually preparing a child or a teen for their first day of school," Scherer added. "It gives them a wonderful chance to feel good about themselves and start the year off right - just like all of us have been able to do."

She sympathizes that these are tough times for a lot of people, not just those normally helped by her organization. But she hopes that when those who can afford it are shopping for their own children they can outfit another child of the same age and contribute it. The Monument Crisis Center takes donations from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Thursday and until 6 p.m. Tuesday. Be sure to tell them you're from the Danville area.

Friday morning I also received an e-mail from Madi and Kinsey Mascali, ages 12 and 9, who have been collecting and stuffing backpacks for the last few years in their Danville driveway under the name Packs with Love to give to school children in Richmond. Last year they collected and assembled 240 backpacks but this year they set a goal of 400 backpacks. So far they are short by 100.

"We have collected the money to buy all the new school supplies but need more gently-used backpacks," they e-mailed everyone on their list. "If all of you can ask kids on your sports teams, from your class, church or in your neighborhood if they have any used backpacks that would really help. We can pick it up from your porch anytime!!!!!"

They said they are delivering 30 full packs to Open Arms in Mexico this week and will give the rest to Shelters Inc., Teen Challenge and the Richmond Schools. They will be working to organize and stuff the backpacks from 9-10:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 19, if anyone wants to join in the fun. Contact them at packswithlove@yahoo.com.

-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.

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