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Whitney Point Friendship Tree packs hundreds of backpacks for kids in need

WHITNEY POINT (WBNG) — Back to school season is right around the corner and many are starting their school supply shopping.

But gathering supplies isn’t cheap. That’s why the Whitney Point Friendship Tree is stepping in to help.

“It costs us between $8,000 and $10,000 a year to run this program,” said director Eloise Wescott.

The nonprofit holds fundraisers throughout the year to buy backpacks for any family in the Whitney Point school district who registers for the program and is in need of financial help.

“If they feel they need it, we accept them into our program,” said Wescott.

Not only does the group buy the backpacks, they fill them also. They are personalized for each individual student.

“We are shopping almost daily,” said Wescott. “Then we start packing it with all of the school supplies that the teachers have on their list for that child.”

Wescott started the drive eight years ago, packing seven backpacks.

“The program has grown immensely since then. This year we have over 264 kids registered,” she said.

The organization uses the Caryl E. Adams elementary school as their main hub for packing and storage, but it wasn’t always that way.

“In the past we started out in her garage. And as you can see it takes a lot of room, and so then we were at the Methodist church, we kind of outgrew that, and this has been really much easier so we can
spread out,” said assistant director Alta Hooker.

The backpacks will be distributed on August 24 at the Caryl E. Adams school.

Distribution day is what the group says is the most rewarding part of the program.

“We have one of the most caring, giving communities,” said Wescott. “We like to have the families bring the children out so we can see the smiles on their faces and the excitement that they want to share with us in going back to school in the fall.”

Even then, the work never stops.

“All we need to do is get one phone call from a family that really needs and we pack them really up to the first day of school,” she said.

Once the school year begins, so does shopping for the next year.

“We start looking for sales on backpacks,” said Hooker.

“Distribution Day” will be a one-stop shop for all things back to school.

There will be hairdressers giving free back to school haircuts and a photographer taking free back to school pictures.

Other organizations will also be attending, providing free lunch, games and activities.

The event kicks off at 10 a.m.

Annie Flaherty

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