KENNETT SQUARE >> About 300 underprivileged students in three southern Chester County school districts will not go to school unprepared this year thanks to a Longwood Rotary Club book bag project.

“We are helping a lot of students who need backpacks to do their schoolwork,” said Tim Rayne, president of the Longwood Rotary Club. “I think this is one of the best programs we do in this club.”

On Saturday morning, about 50 community volunteers gathered at the Kennett Area Senior Center to assemble the book bags, which will be distributed to only the neediest students in grades K through 12 in the Avon Grove, Kennett Consolidated and Unionville-Chadds Ford school districts.

“I think this is fanstastic,” said Jordan Gushurst, who co-chaired the Rotary project along with George Gower. “This encapsulates the reasons and values you teach your kids about service to others, so they can visualize what it’s like to go to school without supplies.”

This year, about 50 more students were served than last year, but Gushurst said there are still hundreds of other students who really need them. He said the backpacks were a much higher quality this year, and should last much longer. Inside the book bags, students will find essential school supplies like pens, pencils, rulers, notebooks, binders, glue, erasers, scissors, index cards, highlighters and index cards.

Melanie Weiler, executive director of the Kennett Area Food Cupboard, estimates the book bags will save parents about $50 to $60 in school supplies. Weiler helps to determine which needy families will receive the book bags.

Also inside the book bags is a note from the Longwood Rotary Club that tells students in both English and Spanish that a lot of people donated time and money to gift them the book bag, and in return they should do their very best in school.

This year, Gushurst said books were put in the book bags. He said he got a deal from Scholastic , which has books in tens of thousands of schools, for $1 per book. Each grade level gets the same book, and Gushurst said this will encourage students to discuss the book.

Gushurst said The Longwood Rotary wants to serve even more underprivileged students next year, and encourages parents to pick up a few extra school supplies when they are shopping. The school supplies can be dropped off at the Kennett Area Food Cupboard, or at a drop box in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. Checks can be made out to the Longwood Rotary Foundation, PO Box 781, Kennett Square, Pa. 19348, with the words “Backpack Project.” It is a tax-deductible charitable donation.

Several area businesses helped with donations and or provide low cost supplies (TJ Maxx, Staples and Big Lots) and other items were purchased in bulk online to maximize our buying power.

“This is an easy way for families to support less fortunate kids,” Gushurst said. “Right now, there is more demand than we can serve.”

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