It's Backpack Challenge time: Giveaway to aid families with school supplies

For many Berkshire families, back-to-school time spells financial struggle.

There simply isn't enough money to buy all the supplies their student needs for the upcoming school year.

Warren Dews Jr., New England Newspapers' chief consumer sales and event officer, hopes the upcoming 1,000 Backpack Challenge giveaway will help those with less financial means make ends meet this back-to-school season.

"Next year, I want it to be the 2,000 backpack challenge," he said.

The event, sponsored by Greylock Federal Credit Union and other organizations, will provide backpacks filled with school supplies to anyone who needs them.

Interested students can pick up their backpacks from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Boys & Girls Club of the Berkshires in Pittsfield.

"It's for anybody in need of a backpack," Dews said.

The event will also feature free haircuts, face-painting, health checkups and social media safety training, along with handouts with financial tips for parents.

The second in the Berkshire Eagle's Youth Empowerment Series of events, the giveaway is for all of Berkshire County, not just the city of Pittsfield.

Backpacks may include pencils, pens, notepads, rulers, gluesticks and other school essentials.

"It's simple stuff," Dews said. "Everybody needs a gluestick."

Besides backpacks, various vendors will be on hand to provide information about their programs, including the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center, the Salvation Army and the Berkshire Family YMCA, Dews said.

Greylock responded to Dews' vision for a program on a larger scale than other backpack donation programs in the county.

"We were totally thrilled to jump on that bandwagon," said Cindy Shogry-Raimer, vice president and director of community development at Greylock. "This is the first time that it's been targeted at this level."

Greylock donated funding for the program, and also has hired face painters for the giveaway event, she said.

The company also has four staff members planning to volunteer their time to stuff the backpacks prior to the event, she said.

Any backpacks remaining after Wednesday's event will be given to local school districts.

Reach staff writer Patricia LeBoeuf at 413-496-6247 or @BE_pleboeuf.


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