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Backpacks stuffed with supplies got 500 students ready to go back to school

DALTON — The Berkshire Eagle's backpack and back-to-school supplies giveaway event took place — and took place quickly — at three locations in Berkshire County on Wednesday.

Quickly, because within 30 minutes, all 500 backpacks were claimed by local families. With previous years' giveaway events as a guide, organizers had planned for a nearly three-hour handout and expected a handful of backpacks to be left over.

But the 2022 economy seems to have sparked a sense of urgency for grateful families looking to get an assist with free school supplies for their children. "Life's a struggle for families these days," one observer remarked.

Berkshire Money Management sponsored the popular giveaway by supplying the 500 backpacks filled with pencils and pens, scissors, glue stick, ruler, highlighter, notebook and crayons, according to Kate Teutsch, The Eagle’s director of advertising services. Teutsch said this year's demand was evident judging by how quickly the supplies went.

Allen Harris, the CEO and chief investment officer of Berkshire Money Management, summed it up with the numbers behind the need.

“With inflation up 8.5 percent year-over-year, the typical household now needs to spend $460 more per month to buy the same goods and services as it did last year,” Harris said. 

As a result, he said, some parents are making sacrifices to make ends meet.

“The Backpack Giveaway helps make some of those decisions less challenging,” he said.

Harris and members of his staff gave away the backpacks at Berkshire Money Management headquarters in Dalton. Simultaneously, backpacks also were handed out outside The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield and at Family Resource Centers in Great Barrington.

Jason Godfrey, the director of Family Resource Centers, told Teutsch that the supply of backpacks was gone within 30 minutes there too.

Outside The Berkshire Eagle, a line of cars moved along quickly, as folks received their child’s backpacks in drive-through fashion, one after the other.

Asked why The Backpack Giveaway continues to receive annual support from Berkshire Money Management, Allen said it’s about community.

“The community helps small businesses like Berkshire Money Management grow and create jobs,” Harris said. “It’s important that we give back to the community. That is especially true today.”

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