Describe your nonprofit’s mission.
Backpack Buddies is a charity founded by Lucia Hoerr when she was nine years old, to help provide backpacks filled with new fun school supplies to other children in the community who are less fortunate. We aim to prepare all of the students in Charlottesville and surrounding counties for the start of each school year by providing them with all of the supplies necessary. These school supplies allow for the underprivileged students in our area to begin the year on the same level as everyone else. When we provide the packed backpacks, the families of these students are freed from the financial burden of new school supplies, which can become extremely expensive when added together. Also the efforts of Backpack Buddies mean that public school teachers aren’t having to dip into their own personal funds to buy the missing supplies, which often happens in these situations.
What need in our community brought about the creation of your nonprofit?
When I was only nine years old and shopping for school supplies with my mom, I learned that the totals can become very expensive. The cost of a new backpack filled with all of the necessary supplies, such as binders or graphing calculators, can reach or even exceed $100. Along with the obvious financial burdens on families and teachers, studies have shown that children who do not have school supplies at the beginning of school quickly fall behind both academically and socially.
How has your nonprofit made a difference in our community?
Over the past seven years we have collected, packed, and donated over 1,500 backpacks with new fun school supplies for local children in need. We started as a small summer fundraiser by one young girl, to a large certified nonprofit with dozens of volunteers and local support. Thanks to Backpack Buddies there are over 1,500 kids at the Boys and Girls Club, Refugee Center, and public schools who have had a fully packed backpack for the start of school.
How can community members help you achieve your mission?
We have been growing our reach in Central Virginia exponentially over the past few years, and so every year we need to find more support. Monetary donations are always accepted, and we also love when people donate backpacks or school supplies. Shopping for school supplies can be a very fun experience, especially when you know they are going to children in need.
Also, we are always looking for volunteers for our numerous fundraisers throughout the year. Our large events are normally during the summer, and in mid-August we always have a “backpack filling party” for all of our volunteers.
Tell us a story that has come out of your work.
After speaking to Triple C Camp this summer about Backpack Buddies for their annual fundraiser to support us, I was driving back into town with my dad. We stopped at a small country gas station, and entered to buy a few snacks. Of course, I was wearing my Backpack Buddies t-shirt, and the older woman behind the counter pointed it out and noted how great of a charity it was. Honestly, I thought she was mistaking it for some other organization, so I just smiled and agreed. Then, however, she looked at me quizzically and a second later asked if I was the girl who had founded it. I answered that, yes, I was.
Immediately she started thanking me profusely for all of my work, and started telling me how her middle school aged daughter had received one of our backpacks several years ago. Their family had been in a rough patch, when neither she or her husband had jobs, and they could not possibly afford to buy any school supplies for their daughter. This woman told me, basically a stranger, how her daughter had been so nervous and embarrassed to start school, but that her brand new backpack gave her confidence and helped her to become excited about school.
The woman continued that after that year she got a new job and they were doing much better. But she was remembering her daughter, and how that backpack was a complete blessing in a dark time. She was tearing up, and even went as far as to make a small contribution at that moment.
Learn more about Backpack Buddies.
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