Two years ago, workers at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (IFFS) were surprised that the backpacks they were filling with food for children in the Backpack Buddies program were disappearing. As part of Backpack Buddies, children in low-income neighborhoods receive backpacks full of healthy food to take home for the family for the weekend.

When community workers asked the children why they weren’t returning the backpacks, the kids told them, ”We need that backpack,'” said Elizabeth Rodgers, agency outreach coordinator at IFFS. “They were willing to chance not receiving one area of need in order to have a book bag,” Rodgers said.

The staff at community school centers also noticed that when kids came for tutoring, they didn’t have basic items like tablets of paper, ink pens, rulers and glue. So IFFS put the word out asking for school supplies. St. Francis responded by adding IFFS to its annual Back-to-School Supply Drive.

Last year, 376 pounds of school supplies collected from St. Francis parishioners were distributed to 240 children at community school sites in Raleigh. “It takes the burden off of parents who are trying to figure out how to juggle bills, provide school clothing and meet other demands,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers expressed gratitude for the generosity of St. Francis parishioners. “You all are a big deal. Just know that St. Francis of Assisi is truly making all of this happen.”

This year’s Back-to-School Supply Drive started Aug. 4 and continues through Aug. 12. We’re off to a great start, but remain in need of backpacks, binder dividers, graph paper, copy paper, 3-hole pocket folders, hand-held pencil sharpeners, dry erase markers, highlighters, and scientific calculators with a function key. Other needed items include binders, notebooks, notepads, three-hole lined paper, folders, rulers, pens, pencils, markers, crayons, scissors, glue and construction paper. The drive will benefit children served by Passage Home, Our Lady of the Rosary, and Ronald McDonald House, in addition to IFFS.