FISH holds annual backpack drive

Abigail Barnette (pictured) with her sister Oliva pushed bags full of ready-todonate backpacks into Oxford/Orion FISH this past Monday. Their sister Evelyn has donated backpacks for FISH since about 2014 and collected 100 backpacks this year. Photo by D. Vaglia

‘Just kind of our way to get kids started on the right foot.’

By Dean Vaglia
Leader Staff Writer
When money is tight, school supplies can be an extra expense too great to afford.
That’s why Oxford/Orion FISH is holding their annual backpack and school supplies drive. Running until Aug. 21, the drive gives local families the chance to get the goods they need to start the school year.
“It’s just kind of our way to get kids started on the right foot,” Lynn Kennis, program organizer for the drive, said. “And also to help parents with the beginning of school; there’s all kinds of fees, pictures, all that stuff. So if we can get them started with a new backpack and supplies, it helps.”
The program has been around since at least the early 2000s — Kennis remembers the program from before she joined FISH in 2004 — and has seen a few changes over the years. Most dramatically was how the program adapted for COVID-19 by switching from in-person aid to giving clients gift cards to office supplies stores.
This year the program is back to in-person distribution. When kids come to FISH on the morning of Aug. 21, they are able to pick from a selection of backpacks filled with grade-suitable items ranging from pre-k to high school.
“We fill them to be age appropriate,” Kennis said. “High school kids don’t need crayons, but elementary schoolers need crayons, glue sticks [and] markers. High school kids need notebooks, index cards, Post-It notes, mechanical pencils, those types of things.”
Aiming to have over 200 backpacks available this year, FISH isn’t too particular when it comes to what kinds of supplies and backpacks are donated. So long as the supplies work and are in good condition, even a little will go a long way to making a student’s school year.
“I get teary eyed when I see kids get (the backpacks),” Kennis said. “It’s really wonderful to see.”
Some in-demand items are composition notebooks, pens, pencils, markers and notebooks.
The school supplies drive is one of the first seasonal events at FISH since reopening on July 13. While the pantry was open throughout the pandemic as a curbside pickup, clients are now allowed to schedule a time to shop among the isles of fresh produce, canned food and household goods. Volunteers are vaccinated and clients are encouraged to wear masks while shopping.
Anyone looking to donate school supplies can schedule a drop-off at FISH. Cash or check donations should mention if they are for food or school supplies.

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