Buying a long list of school supplies for the start of the school year can be a financial challenge for many families. New Hope Ministries, a diaconal outreach of several Christian Reformed Churches in northern New Jersey, is helping by giving away more than 120 backpacks filled with school supplies through a program they call Backpack Buddies.
The program is for kids from kindergarten through high school, but sometimes even a few preschoolers and college kids benefit. Recipients of the backpacks belong to families who use the food pantry of New Hope Ministries.
Filled backpacks help kids succeed in school.
Church and community members and a local bank donate the backpacks and supplies, often taking their own children along to shop for supplies for a Backpack Buddy of similar age.
All of the backpacks are distributed to kids and their parents during a late-summer party that includes hot dogs, watermelon, beverages, and baked goods.
Cassie Vander Eems, 9, enjoyed the experience. “I think putting the backpack together is fun,” said Cassie Vander Eems, age 9, “but seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when they receive the backpack is cool too.”
Ruben Alvarez, who received a backpack, sent a thank you note. “It was a blessing to receive the backpack and the things I need for 5th grade. God bless everyone in a special way,” he wrote.