Merrill backpack project sees need for donated supplies grow

Merrill Forward Together and the Lincoln County Family Resource Centers are partnering with the Merrill Noon Optimist and the 4-H Ambassadors in a collaborative effort to collect backpacks and school supplies that will be given to children in grades K-5 in August who qualify.

The program has seen a surge in the number of children eligible for the free supplies, which are available to children in families eligible for free lunch according to federal guidelines. In 2008, just over 300 students qualified to receive backpacks. In 2009, 415 students qualified to receive backpacks. The struggling economy has hit the Merrill community hard this year and the number of youth that qualify has risen to almost 600.

“The families served by Backpacks for Kids are having a hard time simply making ends meet and without this project, many of these children will start the school year without the basic supplies they need,” said Amanda Kostman of the Lincoln County UW-Extension.

Area residents wishing to donate have several ways to do so. One way would be to purchase some of the supplies on the list and drop them in the boxes available at Wal-Mart or the UW-Extension Office at 801 N Sales Street. The organizers ask that people avoid purchasing supplies not on the list, so that all backpacks contain the same or very similar items.

Items needed:

• Backpacks of all sizes (new only)

• #2 Pencils

• Crayons – 24 count

• Colored pencils – 24 count

• Pens – red, black and blue

• Markers – 12 count (washable and regular)

• Highlighters

• Erasers – pink regular and/or pencil toppers

• Pencil pouches

• White School Glue and glue sticks

* • Scissors – blunt and pointed tip

• Rulers – standard 12″

• 2 pocket folders (plain color)

• Wide-lined spiral notebooks (plain color)

Financial contributions are also welcome, to allow the group to purchase supplies that are not donated. Checks made payable to MFTHCI – Backpacks for Kids can be mailed to PO Box 793, Merrill, WI 54452 or dropped off at the UW-Extension office.

“We are counting on community support to fill this need,” Kostman said. “I hope we can count on you to be part of this opportunity to reach out to children and families in our community who need our help.”

Backpacks will be filled and distributed on August 21, so all donations must be received by August 13. If you have questions, please Kostman at 715-539-1080.

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