The 13th annual Stuff the Backpack drive came to a close last Saturday with students across southern Oklahoma reaping the rewards.
Stuff the Backpack is an event put on by the Ardmore Young Professionals in conjunction with the Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma.
The drive began June 24 and ran through Aug. 2, with kids receiving backpacks filled with school supplies from the Ardmore Young Professionals.
Ardmore Young Professionals Director Sarah Johnson is never surprised by how much the community helps the kids.
“It is amazing how much Ardmore steps up every time and helps us fulfill that need,” Johnson said. “It never fails to surprise me how much Ardmore supports, especially the schools and the students who need just a little bit extra.”
In 2006, the original drive had just ten backpacks given out to kids. Last year, the drive was able to help 660 students receive supplies for the upcoming school year.
This year the goal was to reach 1,000 backpacks, which Johnson said was nearly achieved.
Drop boxes were located around the city where citizens could drop off school supplies for the event. New to this year’s campaign, donating financially through the Ardmore Young Professionals website for people who could not make the drop off locations.
One hundred percent of the financial donations were spent on school supplies.
The Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma received vouchers from Staples which were also given to students through the Stuff the Backpack drive. The vouchers were given to those who signed up through the Grace Center before the event happened.
Over 600 vouchers were given out from the Grace Center.
This was Executive Director of the Grace Center Laura Akers first year to be involved with the Stuff the Backpack drive and was happy to see students in the area given the chance to get ahead before school starts.
“What I have learned in the last month is this community comes together around the issue of getting kids ready to go back to school,” Akers said. “It’s not just AYP, it is not just the Grace Center, it’s also organizations like Ardmore Literacy Leadership, HFV Wilson Community Center that are working for children that are growing up in households with limited financial and economic means.”
Akers also added that the cost for families to buy school supplies keeps rising and is making it difficult for families to afford the things their kids need to be prepared on day one of school.
The National Retail Federation conducted a survey in 2018 and found the average household spent $122.13 on school supplies.
“It is extremely expensive to get kids ready for school with requests put on school supplies lists,” Akers said. “With the assistance the Grace Center was able to provide, along with the backpack from AYP, it just helps that student get the essential supplies and be ready for school so they can focus on learning.”