Nonprofit collects supplies for ‘Backpack Heroes’

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

JASPER — Youth Villages’ annual school supply drive is giving people the opportunity to be ‘heroes’ to local kids in need.

The drive, called Backpack Heroes, collects school supplies that Youth Villages staff distribute to the children they’re working with. Those children have cases in the Department of Child Services and have experienced trauma or have a history of emotional or behavioral health issues. The supplies allow them to start the school year equipped to succeed.

Youth Villages, based in Memphis, Tennessee, is a children’s mental and behavioral health counseling provider with offices in 13 states and a local office in Jasper. DCS and the probation department refer cases to Youth Villages counselors, who then work with the families toward a healthier living situation. The Jasper office covers Dubois, Spencer, Orange, Crawford, Perry, Martin and Daviess counties and currently serves 15 families, which is a full caseload.

All Youth Villages offices run Backpack Heroes drives during the summer to help the children they work with be prepared for school. Brittany Kidwell, director of the Jasper office, said they frequently see kids not want to go to school because they don’t have everything they need.

“I think it just helps give them confidence,” she said. “A lot of them already have more stress than they should at their ages. Having the supplies they need is one less thing for them to worry about.”

Kidwell expects all 15 of the families they are working with to utilize Backpack Buddies this year.

Kidwell acknowledged that thrift stores will often have some school supplies, but said that even those stores can be too expensive for some struggling families. And while there are other community organizations and nonprofits that can help families in need get food and clothing, Youth Villages saw a gap when it came to school supplies. That gap led to the Backpack Heroes program.

“We don’t often recognize that this need is just right outside our front door,” Kidwell said, adding that the organization appreciates the community support.

To donate to the drive, people can purchase school supplies and put them in a drop box at The Mad Batter, 708 Main St., Jasper, or at the Youth Villages office, 901 N. Newton St., Jasper. People can contact Kidwell directly at 812-259-0177 to schedule a pickup.

Needed items include new backpacks or messenger bags, loose-leaf paper, spiral notebooks, post-it notes, tissues, index cards, glue sticks, pens and pencils.
Those wishing to donate money can do so at www.youthvillages.org/backpacks.

Kidwell said 100% of the money and items donated during the drive, which runs through Friday, will go toward getting school supplies to the kids Youth Villages serves. Kidwell can also accept donations after the drive.




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