Photo Gallery | Free backpacks for back-to-school

NORTH ADAMS — School supplies and backpacks ruled a two-day span this week as The Family Place offered the school necessities for free to any family living in Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Florida, Savoy, North Adams or Williamstown.

The giveaway began Wednesday and ended Thursday with over 250 backpacks available for students.

After selecting the backpacks of their choosing, students were busy filling them with pencils, rulers, composition books, crayons, colored pencils, erasers and other school needs. Florida and Savoy residents picked out their backpacks and supplies on Wednesday evening while residents of the remaining communities selected their items on Thursday afternoon.


"The great thing about this is that it is not income eligible," said Amber Besaw, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition interim executive director and the overseer of The Family Place. "Anyone can participate."

Jordan Liebenow, 13, said he thought the giveaway was "pretty cool."

"I love the backpacks," he said. "And the supplies are decent. These are proper school supplies."

Jordan will start the school year as 7th-grade student, he said.

"I love it," said 9-year-old city resident Karlie Thomas. "There's stuff here that i don't have that I need. "

After filling a backjpack, students were encouraged to choose a free book from a paperback book collection. Karlie selected "Skylark."

"I like to read," she said.

Her younger brother Jason Thomas, 6, showed off the reading skills he learned last year as a kindergarten student, sounding out the name "Henry" included in the title of his book, "Henry and Mudge."

A composition book was his favorite item, he said. He quickly added "Want to know my second favorite? It's this!" as he pointed to his new gray backpack.

The event required registration, Besaw said. Supplies were suitable for students from kindergarten to Grade 12, she said.

From left, Michelle Kemp helps her sons Isiah Williamson, 10, and Alizjah Williamson, 7, of North Adams pick out backpacks on Thursday. The Family Place in
From left, Michelle Kemp helps her sons Isiah Williamson, 10, and Alizjah Williamson, 7, of North Adams pick out backpacks on Thursday. The Family Place in North Adams hosted a back-to-school event featuring free backpacks with school supplies for students in local Northern Berkshire Schools in grades Kindergarten through 12. (Gillian Jones — The Berkshire Eagle |

"For the younger kids we added crayons and pencil grips, for the older ones we did calculators and colored pencils," she said.

Besaw said that members of the Berkshire Community Action Council and students associated with the Drury High School Summer Transitional Education Program (STEP) program assisted with donations of the school supplies. The backpacks were purchased and filled for a total cost of $5.82 each, she added. Funds from The Family Place budget were used as well, she said.

The Family Place is a Northern Berkshire Community Coalition program. Its offices are at 66 Main St. Its mission is to "help local families stay happy, healthy, and strong." The Berkshire Community Action Council is headquartered in Pittsfield and has a city-based Northern Berkshire office at 66 Main St.. The council offers community programming, weatherization programs, fuel assistance to income eligible families, and additional services.