Volunteers pack book bags for underprivileged students in Avon Grove, Oxford, Unionville and Kennett school districts

FRAN MAYE - DIGITAL FIRST MEDIAVolunteers prepare to pack bookbags with supplies at the Kennett Senior Center in Kennett Square Saturday morning.

KENNETT SQUARE >> Hundreds of 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.

On Saturday, 45 volunteers helped to stuff book bags with pencils, notebooks, rulers, glue, scissors, index cards, age-appropriate books, highlighters and other items essential for school. Students who receive these book bags otherwise would go to school unprepared, and much less likely to succeed.

“I am not able to solve all the economic challenges for these families, but I know that children who value education are destined for a better life and will lead to a stronger country,” said Jordan Gushurst, who heads up the project for the Longwood Rotary Club. “Providing the school supplies these children need helps prepare them to learn and to enjoy school.”

The book bags will be distributed to the neediest students in grades K through 12 in the Avon Grove, Kennett Consolidated, Oxford and Unionville-Chadds Ford school districts.

“I think it went really well this year,” Gushurst said. “We try to improve it every year,”

Not every student who qualifies will receive a backpack, however. To teach responsibility of taking care of their backpacks, the Rotary gives out one backpack with school supplies every three years. Otherwise, the students receive only the school supplies.

Last year, the Rotary Club’s project supported over 375 students from kindergarten through 12th grade, and this year, Gushurst said even more students will be getting supplies.

“Every year we attempt to increase our support, because we know there are well over 700 children living in families that meet federal poverty guidelines in the Kennett Square area,” Gushurst said.

Melanie Weiler, executive director of the Kennett Area Food Cupboard, estimates the book bags will save parents about $50 to $60 in school supplies. For the most part, students in families living at poverty level or below poverty level receive book bags.

Several area businesses helped with donations and or provided low cost supplies. The public can support the project by making a tax-deductible contribution to the Longwood Rotary Foundation (P.O. Box 781 Kennett Square PA 19348 – add “Backpack Project” to memo).

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