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United Way optimistic to smash 1,000 backpack goal

The annual Tools for School campaign has returned and organizers are optimistic they will be able to gather supplies enough to fill over 1,000 backpacks. Despite an unusual start to the campaign due to the ongoing COIVD-19 pandemic, United Way Alberta Northwest donor relations director Joanne Cousins says they nearly broke 2019’s numbers the night before the stuff-a-bus event began.

“We don’t have a final count yet because we still have a ton of requests coming in but we were around 650 last night around 5 p.m. and I know we’ve had a bunch more since then,” she says.

At the start of the campaign, Executive Director Jaimie Craig said the team would have to figure out the logistics behind collecting donations, as well as compliance with provincial health guidelines during the stuff-a-bus.

A school bus will be stationed in the Staples parking lot until 2 p.m. as a collection point for donations. Last year, 732 backpacks were stuffed with school supplies and distributed throughout the Grande Prairie Area.

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If there are any extra supplies that exceed requests, the materials will be distributed as evenly as possible throughout the three local school districts.

Cousins estimates as of 10 a.m. Tuesday, they had received roughly $20,000 in school supplies from their sponsors including Staples, Costco, and RBC. She adds the program nowadays is a far cry from where it was at its launch in 2013.

“It’s grown a lot; If I remember correctly, the first or second year that we did it I think we had maybe a few handfuls of backpacks that we sent out, so to come to where we’re almost at 1,000 is pretty crazy. It just shows that there’s a lot of need in the community.”

Cousins says the end-goal is simply to continue expanding the program, raising awareness, and getting more youth helped and properly prepared for their education.

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