Updated: Aug 16
ORLEANS — As the cost of goods and services continues to rise, it can be tough these days for families to cover all of their needs. With the start of a new school year just a few weeks away, that also includes paying for back-to-school supplies.
The Homeless Prevention Council helped provide approximately 250 new backpacks full of supplies for students and families on the Lower and Outer Cape in 2021, and Hadley Luddy, the nonprofit's CEO, said demand for supplies is expected to be the same this year.
"I stress that any parents or guardians from Harwich to Provincetown can reach out and inquire about signing up their child to participate," she said. "We really want to hear from people as soon as possible."
Now in its 31st year, the council offers personalized case management services to people and families at risk of homelessness or facing other needs. The Backpack to School program is in its 21st year and is one of two major campaigns run by the nonprofit each year.
Program volunteers meet with school officials toward the end of each school year to understand what students will need for the coming year at each grade level, Luddy said. Supplies are then purchased and assembled in the backpacks by grade.
"It's customized," she said. "We're not just putting a bunch of supplies into a bag. What does an incoming ninth grader at Nauset High School need in their backpack? We want all our kids to show up on the first day feeling prepared and ready to go."
The savings offered to families through the program can be significant, Luddy said. While specific supply needs vary from grade to grade, she said the cost of a full backpack, including a gift card to be put toward the purchase of new shoes, can range anywhere from $100 to $300.
Beyond helping send students back to school on the right foot, Luddy said the program can also help connect families to additional support they might need from the council, which also provides case management referrals, housing application assistance, housing searches and fuel assistance. This year's campaign comes on the heels of a record-breaking 2021 in which the council helped serve approximately 2,700 clients. Since 2019, the amount of people reaching out to the council for help has risen by 65 percent, Luddy said.
"We're seeing more moderate income families reach out to us."
But the council welcomes the demand, and Luddy is encouraging families interested in taking part in this year's Backpack to School program to reach out to the council sooner rather than later.
"Just don't hesitate to ask for help," she said. "This is a tough time. Backpack is a great example of a program that can offer additional support. It's more money you can put in your gas tank or toward your grocery bill or any other rising cost."
The council's website lists specific materials it is looking to collect for students, among them notebooks, two-cover folders, markers, No. 2 pencils, scientific calculators and crayons. The website also includes a link allowing people to make monetary donations online.
Donated materials can be dropped off at select locations in Orleans (see sidebar). For more information about Backpack to School or to learn more about the council, visit www.hpccadepcod.org/backpack-to-school
Backpack to School Drop-off Locations
Homeless Prevention Council 14 Old Tote Rd., Orleans
Seamen's Bank All locations
St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church 61 Canal Rd., Orleans
Orleans Police Department 99 Eldredge Park Way, Orleans
Nauset Marine 45 Cranberry Hwy, Orleans
Nauset Marina East Marina 235 Main St., Orleans
Staples 136 Route 6A, Orleans