NORWICH – For Tiffany Lee, senior member of Norwich Free Academy and Project Outreach, it’s important to help with Norwich’s community backpacking program, with the ability to help even one’s own peers.
“I think education is important, and helping children to be able to afford more of the things essential for school will be better for their future because children are our future,” said Lee.
On Tuesday, the NFA Outreach Project, with help from Cindy Beauregard, Site Manager for the Norwich Public Schools Family Resource Center and Norwich Community Police Officer Brianna Santiago, filled around 900 bags backpacks filled with school supplies needed for pupils up to grade 12 living in Norwich. Students referred to the Community Backpack Program will receive their supplies starting this week.
Jodi Savage, Project Outreach coordinator, said the Backpack program has been around since 2014. Savage said the program is supported by grants from companies like Dime Bank and Centerville Bank, organizations like the Norwich Rotary Foundation and the Easter Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and private donations. A complete list of contributors and donors is included with each backpack.
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Savage said the backpacks are filled at the request of organizations such as Madonna Place and St. Vincent de Paul Place, as well as Norwich Human Services, and that the backpacks are given to referrals to the program, the content of backpacks being dictated by age. interval.
Savage said that since Norwich is a distressed municipality by state standards, people need supplies, especially with the virus’ lingering impact.
“The job market is not what it used to be,” Savage said. “The jobs we have are more in retail and service so the pay level is pretty low so even working families are struggling to meet their basic needs,” Savage said.
Beauregard also said that having access to these supplies improves academic performance.
“If they have the supplies and tools they need to do what they need to do, homework or in the classroom, they will do better in school,” Beauregard said.
Over the years, Savage said the Backpack program has donated more than 5,500 backpacks since the start of 2014. She believes the program will continue for the foreseeable future.
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“There is a need for this, so we’ll continue to do it until it’s gone,” said Savage.
Another student, Junior Gage Weber, said he would “help as long as I can”.
“It’s just a good thing to be able to help and support the local community,” Weber said.
As for Lee, who plans to continue his volunteer work during his college days, she recommended other students consider joining Project Outreach.
“You will definitely make a lot of friends by doing that, and by joining this program the young people are helping the community, and that is great,” said Lee.