Montgomery schools aim to raise money for 50,000 backpacks

Children in poverty will receive school supplies

§       Montgomery County Public Schools is looking to donate 50,000 backpacks filled with basic school supplies to needy students to start the 2013-14 school year. The “MCPS Give Backpacks” campaign is seeking the funds to provide a backpack for each student receiving free and reduced meals (FARMS).

“Our goal is to get a backpack for every single one of those students, but even if we cannot, we’ll still be able to ensure a large number of students in need get access to school supplies,” school system spokesman Dana Tofig said. “There are other folks who might not qualify to get free and reduced meals, so this reaches out to them, as well.”

A backpack plus supplies and delivery costs $10, and the 4-year-old program has grown in size each year. In its trial run in 2009, the school system gave away 3,000 backpacks, and it gave away 8,000 last year. The surge from 8,000 to 50,000, Tofig said, is so the county can serve every child going to school in poverty.

“We’re striving for 50,000 and we know it’s a big jump in one year, but we’re hoping we can serve as many families in need as we can,” he said. “It is a monumental undertaking.”

This year backpacks will be delivered to schools instead of being given out at the school system’s annual “Back-to-School Fair” to avoid long lines in the punishing August sun. The new distribution method also will target schools with larger contingents of FARMS recipients. Each school will be able to determine on its own the best way to allocate the donations.

“Given the need and the space available, we figured it would be best to deliver them to the schools,” Tofig said. “We have some schools with 60, 70, 80 percent of students in poverty, so we’ll target those schools.”

Individuals can donate lump sums for single backpacks or sponsor an entire class, for $300 and up; grade, $1,500 and up; and school, $6,500 and up.

Only monetary donations will be accepted for the drive because each backpack will have school supplies included.

To donate, contact the school system’s Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships at 301-279-3100, mail checks to OCEP-MCPS Give Backpacks, 850 Hungerford Drive, Room 50, Rockville, MD 20850, or visit


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