Volunteers and staff at several nonprofit organizations in Loudoun County are hard at work collecting backpacks and school supplies to ensure that local children in need have all the items they’ll require when classes resume later this month.
14-year-old Ashburn resident and Stone Bridge High School student Ryan Janaske has spent the past six summers collecting donations of backpacks and supplies for her community service project, “Kids Helping Kids.”
On Friday, she will begin delivering this year’s backpacks to Forest Grove Elementary and Sugarland Elementary schools, located in Sterling.
Her mother, Christine Janaske, said their basement floor is currently covered with items to be placed in about 150 backpacks with the help of friends. Ryan personally selects “extras” such as card games or sparkly pens to make each pack unique.
“We are excited to start delivering them,” Christine Janaske said. “We are still collecting donations, [the amount of] which are a little low this year.”
They received some assistance from shoppers at the Vera Bradley store in Leesburg which participated in a donation event over the summer resulting in 19 backpacks for the cause.
“We are very grateful for their support,” Christine Janaske said. “I tell Ryan with every backpack you are helping one child.”
Another local nonprofit, the Love U More Foundation, founded by Keaira Jennings, has been working with Leesburg resident Sharon Wright of Loud & Clear Marketing as well as the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce and six business owners who have helped collect school supplies.
This year, Costco donated about 1,500 backpacks for the project which were picked up and delivered in a truck owned by Road Runner Wrecking Service. A group of volunteers will assemble the backpacks August 20 at One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning in Ashburn.
The backpacks will be provided for at-risk children attending any of the qualifying Title I schools in Loudoun County. Having a Title I status means 40 percent or more of the students are come from low-income families.
Jennings is coordinating with the parent liaisons at those schools to ensure children who need backpacks are able to receive them.
“It looks like we have a good amount of supplies. We are confident the kids will have the supplies and backpacks they need to go back to school,” Jennings said.
Receiving a new set of school supplies and a new backpack gives students a sense of accomplishment and pride, Jennings said.
“This way they only have to focus on being good students and learning and they do not have to think about what they don’t have,” she said.
“No one would think there is a need here in Loudoun, as we have an abundance of resources. Those families who are economically disadvantaged are hiding in the shadows and the need is great,” Jennings said. “I believe you should never be looking down on a person unless you are helping them up.”
Sarah Crosley, director of events and stewardship for Northern Virginia Family Service, a nonprofit which works directly with families, said they are in the middle of an annual supply drive which begins in May and June.
The operation is currently located in Fairfax Corner in a commercial real estate space provided by Peterson Companies, where about 1,500 backpacks and supplies will be assembled.
About 200 volunteers are involved from start to finish, she said.
“We are in the process of counting everything to finalize supply orders to round out the supplies and go out and purchase what we didn’t get,” she said.
Due to the pandemic, many of the supplies are purchased from “wish lists” on Amazon and Target, she said.
“It makes it easier so donors do not have to drop off items on site. They seem to like the fast, convenient and safe method. For us, it means we are able engage with more people that way,” she said.
For more information, visit Kids Helping Kids and Love U More Foundation on Facebook or Nvfs.org.