5th annual AYC backpack giveaway readies 400 youth for school

Laura Helm (right) hands Autym Stout a backpack. The annual giveaway supplied nearly 400 youths with school supplies on Thursday, Aug. 3, and Friday, Aug. 4, just in time for Wabash County schools to begin on Wednesday, Aug. 9. Photo by Emma Rausch

By Emma Rausch

The Access Youth Center ensured nearly 400 youth were school ready at the organization’s fifth backpack giveaway on Thursday, Aug. 5, and Friday, Aug. 4.

With Wabash County schools welcoming students back Wednesday, Aug. 9, supplies such as backpacks, pencils and paper are a necessity for learning, not an option, according to Laura Helm, AYC director.

“This year, we prepared just a little over 400 (to give away),” Helm told The Paper of Wabash County on Thursday following the first giveaway. “Last year, we gave 408. Our goal is always to have 500 at the ready. This year, our donations were down a little bit. However, this week a lot of people turned out and brought things in.

“In fact, just a couple hours ago (before doors opened for the giveaway) somebody came in with two brand new backpacks to give us.”

Book bags ranging from Walmart to Marvel brands were filled with a variety of supplies depending on the grade level. While preschool and kindergarten youth received crayons, high school students received highlighters for studying.

In all, the Access gave away between $20 and $35 of school supplies with each bag, according to Helm.

“We try to do just the very basics,” she said. “Crayons, pencils for the elementary kids, markers for the middle school kids, highlighters for the high school kids because they need that. So just a sampling to get them started for school and then we also have ear buds or headphones so that every kid has them because (students) pretty much all need them.

“If we can start them off with basic school supplies and a backpack, we’re just thrilled that we’re able to do that.”

While the AYC gave away a majority of its bags on Thursday and Friday, the organization always stores additional ones in case a student is in need of one throughout the school year, according to Helm.

“We gave backpacks out well into the second week of school last year,” she explained. “The kids that either didn’t get them or couldn’t get here for the two days of the giveaway.”

No matter how many backpacks the AYC offers during the giveaway, Helm said the organization simply hopes to fill the need.

“We want to be able to have a backpack and school supplies for every kid that needs it,” she said, “and if that’s 100 kids, that’s great. If that’s 500 kids, that’s great. We just want to be able to serve the kids that need this to get them started for the school year.”

The AYC’s officials are glad to be able to provide the backpack giveaway and service the community’s in-need youth, she continued.

“What’s exciting for us is we have had lots and lots of people that have come in to say, ‘You know, our family was kind of in a place where we couldn’t afford it and so this year we want to help,’” Helm said. “We had some volunteers here this week who said, ‘You helped us when we needed it and now we want to help out as much as we can,’ and that has been exciting.

“Every single one of us needs some help somewhere along the line,” she later continued, “and if this is what we can do, we are thrilled to be able to do it.”

Posted on 2017 Aug 08