More than 650 free backpacks distributed to District 16 students

Spring Lake Park District 16’s Community Education Department last week distributed more than 650 free backpacks to ensure kids have a proper start for the upcoming school year.

The packs were filled with such school supplies as pencils, markers, crayons and notebooks. Elementary students also received a box of facial tissues.

Parents and students were lined up at the District Services Center eagerly awaiting their turn to pick up the supplies.

“The kids getting their backpacks for the first time are so excited about it,” said Colleen Pederson, director of community education.

In 2008 when the project started, the CED gave out 348 backpacks. This year, as needs increased, the number has risen to 660.

The families of students on free and reduced lunches earlier this year received a letter from the district inviting qualified students to take part in the back-to-school backpack project. To date, 35 percent of the children attending District 16 participate in the free or reduced lunch program, according to district staff.

Spring Lake Park Lions Club members and the Leos, a youth group service program of the Lions Club International, organized and packed the supplies.

Among those contributing to the backpack effort were Eaglebrook Church, Unity Hospital, Spring Lake Park Lions and the district’s Panther Foundation.

“It’s one of my most favorite times of the year because the kids are excited to get the supplies,” Pederson said. “It makes me feel like I’m helping.”

District 16 serves about 5,100 students in Spring Lake Park and portions of Blaine and Fridley.

Students in need of school supplies or backpacks may call the district office at 763-786-5570.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]