Volunteer Lynda Bissonnette, above, is among several volunteers who helped organize the donated supplies in the town’s food pantry and fill backpacks with them. Diego Cagara / Spotlight News
BETHLEHEM — As summer break closes and school is getting back in session, not all are able to afford to buy their own supplies for their classes for the new year. But the town’s Senior Services department is swooping in to the rescue before the bell rings.
Its annual school supplies drive, funded by the not-for-profit Bethlehem Senior Projects, is now underway which began in July, according to William Vail, the department’s assistant director. As of the week of Aug. 11, he said 25 families and around 63 students have submitted their respective lists of desired supplies, using a fill-out form, and the department has been working to get them in time for the fall semester. These would benefit students going to school within the Town of Bethlehem.
Supplies include backpacks, lined paper, pens, calculators, locks for lockers, pocket folders, composition notebooks and rulers. Vail explained that the supplies come from items they’ve gone out to purchase as well as donations from people in the community since summer began. Donations have been gathered from special collecting bins at places like Bethlehem Town Hall, the YMCA and the public library. They are being stored and organized at the food pantry at Town Hall by the town’s food pantry’s volunteers.
A private tour of the room shows an organizational scheme to help volunteers efficiently fill backpacks containing a specific set of supplies for a specific student in need. Volunteer Lynda Bissonnette said, “I like to see things organized start to finish and I like to see smiles on people’s faces. … We make sure that the supplies are appropriate for whatever the grade of the student will be in. The supplies are basically a list of what their teachers said they would need.”
Bissonnette, who said she has been doing this for at least three years now, added that since the supplies drive is run by volunteers, it can be challenging sometimes as organizing supplies and filling the backpacks can be time-consuming and not all volunteers may be available on call.
Vail said, “It’s wonderful that the community has come together and there have also been monetary donations too. We’re grateful that the town is giving us space to do this too.” He added that the department is expecting probably 25 more families to submit their desired supplies lists and the drive ends around the first week of September. He explained that teachers may reveal their specific supplies requirements on the first day of class which can prompt students to reach out to the department again suddenly.
Bringing up that the annual drive has been happening for over 13 years now, he concluded, “We’re doing this so that every student has an equal opportunity to have the supplies they will need to help them succeed. It definitely takes a village and it’s amazing that people give back and our community has a very caring spirit. We are grateful for everyone who are involved here.”