Children’s Fund, HPC Distributing Back-to-school Backpacks

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Education

The “Be A Part Of The Pack” display at Robert Paul Properties in Chatham. COURTESY PHOTO

At this time of year, the very words “back to school” can inspire dismay and anxiety in kids. But for children who face returning to classes without a proper backpack or the necessary school supplies, that anxiety can be significant.

In two unrelated programs, the Orleans-based Homeless Prevention Council (HPC) and the Chatham Children’s Fund are asking the public to help them provide brand new, fully-stocked school backpacks to needy children.

For the past 18 years, the HPC’s “Backpack To School” program has been supporting around 200 children in all towns of the Lower Cape, using donated funds to purchase LL Bean backpacks and supplies. This year, there is a particular need for new backpacks for girls in kindergarten through grade five. HPC also invites supporters to donate new school supplies. General supplies are always in need, but there is a specific shortage of one, two, and three-inch three-ring binders, as well as subject dividers and pencil cases that attach to the binder.

“Using new supplies that you donate to us, we fill the backpacks of every child in our program according to the specific lists that we receive from their teachers,” HPC organizer Maureen Linehan wrote in a letter to donors. “Our goal is to make sure that none of our children feel different than their peers on their first day back at school.”

Donations of money or supplies will be accepted through the end of September. To help, visit

This year, the Nauset Rotary Club is supporting Backpack To School by collecting funds for new shoes for Lower Cape children. The club aims to raise $5,000 by Aug. 1, and will provide 150 gift cards for kids receiving backpacks.

The Chatham Children’s Fund and Monomoy Community Services have been providing stocked backpacks to Chatham children for years, and this year the effort is being supported by Robert Paul Properties, the Chatham Merchants’ Association and the Chatham Chamber of Commerce.

Dubbed “Be A Part Of The Pack,” the program invites area businesses to display a backpack and encourage customers to fill it with monetary donations.

“We will then purchase the supplies,” said Pat Vreeland of Chatham Children’s Fund. “The project is to make sure that every Chatham kid can head off to school with the supplies they need.”

The project was organized by Sharon Mabile and Tony Guthrie at Robert Paul Properties, as an outgrowth of their recent Christmas in July drive for Monomoy Community Services.

A backpack is already on display at Robert Paul Properties’ office downtown, and others will be set up in other locations shortly. Donors are asked to look for the red sign advertising the effort.

“We’re trying to bring awareness to the year-round community, summer and winter, that this is happening,” Vreeland said. Donations will be accepted through Aug. 15.

“I just always feel like giving back is important,” Mabile said. “I know that the Chatham Children’s Fund does a lot for kids.”

Donors can also send financial donations to Monomoy Community Services, 166 Depot Rd., Chatham, MA 02633, writing “Backpacks” in the memo line. More information is available at