As start of school nears, backpack giveaway gets kids geared up for classes

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PITTSFIELD — Five-year-old Victoria Cruz is all set for kindergarten. The youngster has a new black-and-red backpack that includes notebooks, a ruler, glue stick, crayons, tissues and a water bottle.

The Pittsfield girl really likes her crayons.

"I love to draw," she said while waiting in line for facing painting. "I want to be like a cat."

Victoria was among the hundreds of children and their parents Wednesday afternoon who benefited from the annual Back to School Backpack Giveaway held in the gymnasium of the Boys & Girls Club of the Berkshires. Volunteers filled 650 backpacks before the three-hour event that had several local businesses providing health checkups, financial advice to moms and dads, and free haircuts for the kids. Any backpacks left over will be distributed to area charities, according to organizers.

Greylock Federal Credit Union, in conjunction with The Berkshire Eagle, were the lead sponsors of the philanthropic activity, which meets a need throughout the county.

"Literally, there was a line out the door when we started," said JamieEllen Moncecchi, Greylock's vice president of administration.

"This is a huge help to families, many who have several children," noted Greylock's manager of community support, Jennifer Connor Shumsky.

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In addition to back-to-school swag, the children munched on free pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs. The Rotary Club of Pittsfield, having donated backpack items in the past, volunteered to grill the burgers and wieners behind the gymnasium.

"We like hands-on projects," said Rotarian Ron Latham.

For club President John McLaughlin, the backpack giveaway fits the mission of Rotary.

"We like anything involving kids," he said. "Hopefully, this event will continue to grow. Look how many [children] are lined up for haircuts."

Recording artist and Pittsfield native Raiche Wright stopped by to lend a hand. She was impressed by how many backpacks went out the door and the community support for the children.

"I come back when I can. I care about my city," Wright said.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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