HIGHTSTOWN: Rise gearing up for annual backpack drive

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Rise is already planning for its eighth annual backpack drive in the fall. The goal this year is to provide 600 new backpacks to students. 

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
HIGHTSTOWN – While school is winding for the year, Rise is already thinking about how to get kids ready for going back to school in the fall.
Busy collecting backpacks and school supplies for low-income children in the community, Rise is hosting its eight annual Backpack Drive.
“The program got started at the Rise summer camp,” said Leslie Koppel, executive director of Rise. “We wanted to start the kids that spent the summers with the tools they needed for a successful school year.”
She said that it soon spread to all of the families that use Rise services.
“Some local houses of worship had similar programs and we all decided to pool our resources so that all families in our Hightstown and East Windsor community can come pick up a backpack if they are struggling financially,” she said.
Plus, Rise is open every weekday so it is easy for parents to pick up school supplies, she added.
“Rise – A Community Service Partnership provides assistance to hundreds of local individuals and families,” said Maria Cunningham, Rise volunteer event coordinator in an email. “We’re getting ready for our 2016 RISE HAS GOT YOUR BACKpack Drive.
“Last year, 578 local students started the school year with new backpacks and supplies,” she said. “Our goal this year is to provide 600 new backpacks to students.”
According to Ms. Cunningham, Rise will fill the backpacks with supplies, including pencils, pens, notebooks, rulers, erasers, crayons, glue sticks, highlighters, dry erase markers, water bottles and insulated lunch bags.
“We also always welcome gift cards,” said Ms. Cunningham.
She said that she is hoping that the community and local businesses would like to get involved with their RISE HAS GOT YOUR BACKpack Drive again this year.
“We appreciate any contribution you can make,” she said. “We look forward to hearing from you and hope that Rise can count on you.”
Sheri Vegso of L’Oreal in Cranbury is part of the Give Back Committee said that the company backpack drive for Rise is really a group effort.
“I know from personal experience that it brings everyone a lot of joy to help with the cause,” she said, adding that L’Oreal has been contributing since 2011.
She said that they plan to collect and distribute backpacks by mid-August.
Backpacks and school supplies can be dropped off at the Rise office, at 116 Main St. in Hightstown, or at one of the Greater Goods Thrift Stores, which are open six days a week. Rise will also arrange pick-ups for offices that conduct backpack drives.
Ms. Koppel said the program helps relieve some of the stress for both the parents and the children.
“This is a win for the entire community,” she said. “Parents can free up limited funds for other things that children clamor for in the new year, like a new outfit on the first day. And kids don’t have to walk in the door unprepared. Everyone is ready to start school on day one.”
For additional information or to support Rise programs, volunteer, or make a financial contribution, contact the Rise office or visit its website at www.rise-community-services.org. Donations are tax deductible.