United Way Bruce Grey says that requests for backpacks for the upcoming school year has risen 16% from 2017, going from 1326 to 1534.
“I am concerned that, if we see an increase of 16% in requests from the individuals in our community, the overall demand for the program could exceed 2,400 backpacks, that’s 400 more than we anticipated,” explains United Way of Bruce Grey Executive Director, Francesca Dobbyn. “This could put us significantly over budget for 2018”.
“Local agencies, review their client lists and send the United Way a bulk request for supplies. This enables us to plan for the large numbers and have a distribution system to get the backpacks to the children,” says Dobbyn.
The community approach is direct from the families themselves. Either through word of mouth or the media, families learn of the program and call 211 to be placed on the list.
The United Way focuses on the agencies for July and the community requests in August.
“We are seeing an increase in the younger grades, 23% specific to the primary grades,” Dobbyn adds.
She doesn’t know what is causing this increase but Dobbyn wonders if housing affordability is driving young families out of major urban areas into the rural communities. “We are also seeing more and more families financially challenged by precarious work and the lack of living wage jobs in the region.”
“Every child has a backpack — every backpack has a child” is the cornerstone philosophy behind the United Way’s annual Backpack Program. The United Way wants school to be a positive experience for all children, regardless of their economic situation.
By providing school supplies to children of low income families, the United Way is providing the tools needed to start off the year on the right foot.
Since 2005 the United Way has distributed over 21,000 backpacks throughout Bruce and Grey Counties.
The United Way creates the backpacks on two factors; gender and grade level.
- Boys do not get pink or purple unless they request it, and girls can avoid pink and purple if they request it. Four grade levels are created to ensure that the right supplies are provided for the right age group.
- Local agencies, review their client lists and send the United Way a bulk request for supplies. This enables us to plan for the large numbers and have a distribution system to get the backpacks to the children.
- The community approach is direct from the families themselves. Either through word of mouth or the media, families learn of the program and call 211 to be placed on the list.
The United Way is deeply concerned that the program is indicating an increase in local child poverty rates as the population of children is declining in the region, but more of those children are being raised in poverty. (http://www.bwdsb.on.ca/business/enrolment%20projections/)
To support the program donations can be made online at www.donatetoday.ca, by phone at 519 376 1560 or by mail or in person at 380 9th street East Owen Sound.