Unlike most parents, Jeanine Middleton doesn't wait until the end of summer to think about backpacks and school supplies for the fast-approaching first day of school; she thinks about it all year long.
Five years ago, Middleton became the keystone for the Windsor Kiwanis School Backpack program and it takes her just about the whole year to gather the backpacks and supplies. “My house is a mess due to backpacks,” she said with a smile.
Each August, Middleton’s Kiwanis team puts together over 200 new backpacks filled with age-appropriate school supplies for Windsor students in need, from kindergarten through high school. Middleton explained that the kindergartners get the basics like a notebook, crayons, a glue stick, a pencil and an eraser, while the older students get binders, 5 subject notebooks, pens, pencils, high-lighters, filler paper, index cards and even sticky notes to make sure they have the tools they need to tackle their studies.
Throughout the year, the Windsor Kiwanis raise funds by selling fried dough at the Shad Derby Festival and other events, purveying flowers for Mother's Day, and by hosting their annual Golf Tournament. Of all the funds raised, about $2500 is earmarked for the backpack program while the rest of the money supports various scholarships for junior high and high school students.
While the fundraising is going on, Middleton is on the lookout for sales on backpacks and school supplies. She buys new backpacks so that the kids will "feel good about what they have on their backs so that they can start school feeling good.”
The School Backpack Program is coordinated through Windsor Social Services Caseworker, Debbie Sheldon.
“We’re very fortunate that they came forward,” said Sheldon of the Kiwanis. Social Services will provide a conference room next Friday for the Kiwanis team to come in load up the backpacks. The following week, all the notified students will come to pick out a backpack.
Some of the children are a little shy about making a selection, so the parents help guide them. Middleton feels that it is important that the backpacks are the current style and even provides a few messenger bags for the older students. “They are very appreciative and excited to get the backpacks,” beams Sheldon.
However, currently there is a waiting list of almost 25 youths who could still use a backpack and the school supplies. If you are interested in contributing to the School Backpack program, you can donate funds to the Kiwanis by contacting Jeanine Middleton, or contact Debbie Sheldon directly at Social Services to contribute supplies. Sheldon is also collecting supplies for a mentoring and tutoring group that meets at the Wilson Library.
The Windsor Kiwanis are accepting new members. They meet weekly on Thursday evenings and are always looking for like-minded people who want to join their international organization to make the world a better place "one child and one community at a time.”