Operation Backpack helping young students in need

By Michael Boriero – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

With school just around the corner, the volunteers involved in Operation Backpack were busy in recent weeks helping get 104 local students geared up for the coming year.
The United Church in Lennoxville, the organization’s usual home base, is currently closed due to ongoing pandemic health and safety measures, so Operation Backpack needed to find a new home for this fall’s back-to-school rush.
The local organization, which supplies students facing financial difficulties with backpacks, crayons, pencils and more, uses the building to store school materials. They also needed a space to assemble their student packs.
“The biggest issue was finding a place to put our supplies and the second problem was a place where we could actually put the bags together,” said Jane Loiselle, a backpack volunteer.
She explained that a person close to the organization came to the rescue. Tara McCully, daughter of Sharon McCully, one of the founders of Operation Backpack, offered her home since her basement was empty.
“We all have homes that don’t have the space for that kind of thing,” Loiselle said adding that without Tara’s home, they would have struggled to find a new location.
The modest volunteer group managed to raise $12,000 this year, despite losing its main source of income through the Tillotson Foundation, which decided to divert its funds this year toward food banks.
Loiselle said that with their current amount they’d be able to support 104 students in their network. The first stop on their list is Lennoxville Elementary School where 28 students will be receiving school supplies.
“We’ll be giving out at the elementary school tomorrow not only with the social distancing and a mask, but I’ve also got a face shield,” she said.
The group serves the schools in the area, including Alexander Galt High School, Loiselle added. However, not everyone needs school supplies or new backpacks, she explained in a phone interview with The Record.
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