The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time for most students, eager to show off their new, updated wardrobes and start fresh with a pristine backpack and new school supplies. Some students, however, whose families are struggling with an unexpected situation and can’t afford to provide these basic school needs, view the start of the school year with apprehension.
When staff at The Real Life Center became aware that many local students didn’t have what they needed to start the new school year, they sprang into action and began an annual drive to provide many of their clients’ children with backpacks and needed supplies. “There is something special and exciting for students to receive a new backpack and school supplies for the new school year,” says Cathy Berggren, Executive Director of The Real Life Center. “Kids want to fit in like everyone else. We try to help families fill this important need. We may not be able to meet all the needs of each family, but we do the best we can.”
For the third year in a row, Panasonic Automotive Systems in Peachtree City has stepped forward as the primary partner with the Real Life Center of the Backpack Project, dedicating funding and encouraging their employees to donate backpacks and school supplies as well. This year, for every filled backpack received from an employee or contractor, Panasonic matched the donation. Supplies were collected in July, to be distributed to clients of the Real Life Center before the start of school in August.
Delphina Jones Turner, Panasonic Group Manager, Legal and Contract Management, gives leadership to the program. “I have requested support each year from the Panasonic Charities Committee because the Real Life Center is near and dear to my heart,” says Delphina. “Panasonic has always, over the 20 years I have worked here, given back to the community, where our employees live and work. The cost of a book bag and its supplies can be a huge financial burden to anyone going through tough times. My goal is to walk alongside a family in their time of need, in the hope of putting a smile on a child’s face. To have your own book bag and new supplies makes a child feel as if they can start the year off on an equal playing field. If we can assist to eliminate a financial burden, as well as give a parent hope, we have done much for the kingdom of God.”
Churches, neighborhoods and other local businesses also support the project. Last year, One Magnolia Lane, a gift shop in Peachtree City, supplied 273 soft lunch boxes to students. Other youngsters, eager to help, have used their own spending money to purchase filled backpacks for other students in need. According to Cathy Berggren, “A gift of school supplies reminds families that they are not walking this journey alone and that others care.”
One client, Annmarie, who received assistance for her children, agrees with Cathy’s assessment. “The backpack and school supplies I received from the Real Life Center provided so much relief in knowing my children were prepared to start the school year. I am most grateful and blessed. Everyone at the Real Life Center has always shown me so much humility and respect.”
There are never enough backpacks filled with school supplies to meet the growing need. If you would like to help, contact the Real Life Center for more information at reallifecenter.org.