HomeFront distributing backpacks for school year

Happiness is a backpack full of school supplies, a new outfit and new sneakers for the first day of school – especially for children who are living in shelters or whose parents struggle to make ends meet.

That’s why HomeFront hopes to distribute about 4,000 backpacks filled with school supplies and new outfits next month. The nonprofit group, which is based in Lawrence Township, helps the homeless and the working poor.

Every child wants to start the school year with the same fresh, new things that other children have, so what better way to start the new school year than with new clothing and a stuffed backpack, HomeFront officials said.

And a full backpack does make a difference, as HomeFront volunteer Sydney Gecha discovered.

Gecha was tutoring a young HomeFront client who was taking part in its enrichment program. For the first few sessions, the boy handed over his homework, which was folded up and stuffed in his back pocket – when he remembered to bring it.

Gecha encouraged him to become better organized and to remember to bring his homework and a pen. She suggested to him that he should keep his homework in a folder or notebook, along with a pen, in his backpack.

When the boy told Gecha that he did not have what she was asking for – a folder, a notebook and a backpack – she was surprised. By the next tutoring session, she had filled up a backpack with school supplies, which helped the boy to become more organized.

And that’s why HomeFront needs donors to fill those backpacks with school supplies, along with new clothing for the children. Individuals, businesses and corporations are invited to become donors.

Donors may fill backpacks with school supplies or “adopt” one or more children and provide them with new clothing. It is easy to sponsor one or more children – it’s the donor’s choice – by calling HomeFront at 609-989-9417, ext. 137, or by email to homefront@homefrontnj.org.

Donors who choose to support a child with new clothing will be provided with the age, sex, clothing and shoe size of the child, plus the school supplies needed. The shopping list for clothing includes a new shirt and pants, new underwear, socks and shoes or sneakers.

A donor may choose to fill a backpack with school supplies – from the backpack itself to notebooks, a three-ring binder with paper, folders, pens, colored pencils, erasers, rulers, glue sticks, tape, crayons and safety scissors.

Donations of clothing and school supplies may be dropped off at HomeFront’s headquarters at 1880 Princeton Avenue in Lawrence Township, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

The deadline to drop off clothing and school supplies is Aug. 22.

A financial contribution to HomeFront’s back-to-school drive is another way to make school a positive experience for a child. There is a special fund that allows children to participate more fully in the school experience.

The fund will cover the many small expenses that occur throughout the school year and that are out of reach for many HomeFront parents – the costs for school trips, class pictures, special needs tutors, SAT fees and manuals, and clothing for hard-to-fit children.

For more information, call HomeFront at 609-989-9417, email homefront@homefrontnj.org, or visit www.homefrontnj.org.