Junior Auxiliary of Abbeville’s Renee Bertrand (left) and Tanya Istre speak to members of the Kiwanis Club of Abbeville about the JA’s annual school supply drive, Project Backpack.
While in the midst of summer fun, kids may not want to think about the start of school, but it is getting close.
For many families, the beginning of the school year means the reality of not being able to afford all of the supplies that are needed.
Members of the Junior Auxiliary of Abbeville are working with the Vermilion Chamber of Commerce and other groups to make a new reality for many of those families, one that has their children receiving everything they need for a successful school year. The group is promoting Project Backpack, its annual school supply drive.
Tanya Istre and Renee Bertrand spoke to members of the Kiwanis Club of Abbeville about the drive Tuesday afternoon as well as members of the Rotary Club of Abbeville on Wednesday. Junior Auxiliary began Project Backpack in 1999.
“It originally started as giving 20 backpacks to kids in Vermilion Parish,” Istre said. “We had just started out our (JA) charter at that time. They didn’t have a large budget, so they did what they could with the 20 backpacks.”
The effort has grown to more than 100 backpacks and supplies being donated.
“We were able to help 101 kids last year,” Istre said.
The effort has been able to grow thanks to partnerships like the Kiwanis Club and Rotary Club, Istre said. Both clubs made donations this week to the JA’s effort.
“We need those partnerships,” Istre said. “We hope more people can help and have the desire, as we do, to fill these booksacks for these children.
“There is a drastic need.”
It is not only school supplies for which the need is drastic. An extension of the project has been the collection of school-approved jackets for students. With the help of some local companies, JA provided 90 jackets during the last school year.
“There is more of a need than just school supplies,” Bertrand said. “It was after the first big freeze last school year. We reached out to the schools and found dozens of kids needed jackets. This was after a freeze. My heart just broke.”
Partnerships played an important role in bringing jackets to the students who needed them. Business and civic partners for Project Backpack include Acadiana Ford, FUEL, Rotary, Kiwanis, Vermilion Chamber, Manuel’s Screen Printing, Tans Haven, Todd Touchet Family Dentistry, Mula Family Pharmacy, G&H Tire & Collision, Omega Protein, East Ridge and Super 1 Foods. If anyone is interested in partnering with JA Project Backpack please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. School supplies are collected throughout the year.
“We are gearing this project in the right direction,” Bertrand said. “The only way we can keep going in the right direction is to have that support.
“It’s a community effort.”