Backpack Brigade collects supplies for students

LIHUE — The start of the next school year may be another month away, but Kauai Guild volunteers are working hard to equip children and young adults serviced by Child and Family Service with the right tools for success.

The Kauai Guild’s annual Backpack Brigade in full swing as the nonprofit’s “guildas” and “g-men” begin sending in backpacks full of school supplies for Child and Family Service families that may need an extra hand during this time of the year.

“It’s so important, because if you’re not equipped with the materials that you need, you’re not going to be able to learn,” Child and Family Service’s Director of Kauai Programs Novelyn Hinazumi said. “When I was a kid, the feel of having school supplies gave you that good feeling about going back to school, so it really helps the child to have that same experience.”

Kauai Guild Co-chair Carole Kahn said the organization’s initial effort began shortly after the nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization was formed in 2003 as the volunteer arm for Child and Family Services.

At that time, Kahn said the Backpack Brigade event started out with only 30 children and a handful of volunteers.

But those numbers have grown since then.

Last year alone, Kahn said at least 140 children received a backpack from one of the Kauai Guild’s 300 members.

This year’s effort, Kahn said, began in mid-June after she issued out a call to the organization’s nearly 300 volunteers.

Members who reply, Kahn said, are given a fictitious name of a child chosen by a Child and Family Service social worker along with that child’s age, sex and school and grade.  

These names, she explained, are shielded to protect a child’s privacy.

The volunteers then stop by local retailers, where they fill up their carts with school supplies listed for that particular school and grade.

Young adults in Child and Family Service’s Independent Living Program, which helps prepare  young adults between 12- to 26-years-old for their transition out of the foster care system, are also given gift cards for college bookstores, gas stations and nationwide grocery retailers.  

“It’s super expensive to buy those supplies, so many families can’t do it, especially those that have multiple children,” Kauai Guild volunteer Micki Evslin said. “The schools don’t provide as much as they used to, so the only way some children can have school supplies without going to school with empty hands while everyone else has full backpacks is if someone buys it for them and donates it.”

These efforts, in some cases, also come around full-circle, Hinazumi said.

Kauai Co-chair Kathy Richardson said one of her employees revealed that she had received a backpack once from the Kauai Guild and wanted to give back by shopping for some of the children on this year’s list.

“It was really, really heartwarming for her to be on the other end with us and be able to give back,” Richardson said.

For more information, contact Kahn at ckahn@hawaiian.net or Child and Family Services at 651-3500.

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