HomeFront conducts back-to-school backpack drive

HomeFront NJ

Happiness is a backpack full of school supplies, a new outfit and new sneakers for the first day of school – especially for children who are living in shelters or whose parents struggle to make ends meet.

That is why HomeFront hopes to distribute about 2,000 backpacks filled with school supplies and new outfits next month. The nonprofit group, which is headquartered in Lawrence Township, helps the homeless and the working poor.

Every child wants to start school with the same fresh, new things other children have, so what better way to start the new school year than with clothing and a stuffed backpack, HomeFront officials said.

“For children who are  homeless or who live in poverty, having all of these new items goes a long way toward building their confidence to take on a new year,” said Chris Marchetti, the director of HomeFront’s “Joys, Hopes and Dreams” children’s program.

“It gives a kid a fresh start to begin school on the right foot, just like everyone else,” Marchetti said.

Essence Scott, who received help from HomeFront’s back-to-school drive when she was a child, agreed that a full backpack makes a difference.

Scott, who is an adult and a former client, said HomeFront was “like a supplementary piece to school.”

“There were things because of living in motels and below the poverty line that we couldn’t get. HomeFront’s help leveled the playing field,” Scott said.

“It make it like, ‘OK, I can work with this.’ With the back-to-school stuff, I felt cool; like I didn’t have to come to school with ill-fitted clothing,” she said.

Scott said as she grew older, she felt there were “more eyes and more people paying attention” to her at school.

“So the more you stand out (for not having the same clothing or accessories as other children), the easier it is for people to bully you. Being able to come to school with new clothing and supplies meant a lot,” Scott said.

So that is why HomeFront needs donors to fill those backpacks with school supplies, along with new clothing for children. Individuals, businesses and corporations are invited to become donors.

Donors may fill backpacks with school supplies or “adopt” one or more children and provide them with new clothing. It is easy to sponsor one or more children – it’s the donor’s choice – by calling HomeFront at 609-989-9417, ext. 107, or by sending an email to homefront@homefrontnj.org

Donors who choose to support a child with new clothing will be provided with the age, sex, clothing size and shoe size of the child, plus the school supplies that are needed. The shopping list for clothing includes a new shirt and pants, new underwear, socks, and shoes or sneakers.

A donor may choose to fill a backpack with school supplies – from the backpack itself to notebooks, a three-ring binder with paper, folders, pens, colored pencils, erasers, rulers, glue sticks, tape, crayons and safety scissors.

Donations of clothing and school supplies may be dropped off at HomeFront’s headquarters at 1880 Princeton Ave., Lawrence Township, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

The deadline to drop off clothing and supplies is Aug. 16.

A financial contribution to HomeFront’s back-to-school drive is another way to make school a positive experience for a child. There is a special fund that allows children to participate more fully in the school experience.

The fund will cover the many small expenses that occur throughout the school year and that are out of reach for many HomeFront parents – the costs for school trips, class pictures, special needs tutors, SAT fees and manuals, and clothing for hard-to-fit children.

For more information, call HomeFront at 609-989-9417, send an email to homefront@homefrontnj.org or visit www.homefrontnj.org