100 Aroostook students benefit from donated backpacks, school supplies

Posted Aug. 26, 2013, at 4:44 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — One hundred students from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds in Aroostook County are receiving much-needed school supplies and the backpacks to carry them in, thanks to the collaborative efforts of Freeport-based L.L. Bean, United Way of Aroostook and the Aroostook County Action Program’s Family Services Program.

“I received a call from an L.L. Bean representative asking if we could use 100 backpacks. They indicated the business would make the donation provided we could see they got into the hands of children in need this school year,” said Claudia Stevens, executive director of United Way of Aroostook.

The United Way of Aroostook received the backpacks earlier this summer, which came in a variety of colors suitable for high school-, junior high- and elementary-aged children — both boys and girls.

“[L.L. Bean] contacted us out of the blue. They said they’d send us 100 [backpacks] to distribute to those in need. The value of this donation is about $4,000,” said Stevens.

She said it was then up to the United Way of Aroostook board to fill each with age-appropriate school supplies.

“The board agreed to spend up to $1,500 for school supplies to fill the backpacks. All supplies were bought locally. We spent about $1,200,” she said.

On Aug. 14, Aroostook County Action Program sent a bus over for the pickup, with plans to deliver the goods to eligible students throughout the area in the days ahead.

“The backpacks will be distributed through [Aroostook County Action Program]’s Family Services Program throughout Aroostook County. We have offices from the St. John Valley to Dyer Brook,” said Mike Truman, Aroostook County Action Program’s bus driver.

“Each backpack contains various items students will need as the school year begins. Items include notebooks, folders, flash drives, pencils, pens, markers and academic planners,” said Nahar Little, office administrator for the United Way of Aroostook.

“Younger ones get pencil boxes, glue, erasers,” said Little.

“This is a collaborative effort — one made possible through the generosity of L.L. Bean and with [Aroostook County Action Program]’s help distributing the totes in time for school,” said Stevens. “[Aroostook County Action Program] will see that they’re distributed throughout The County. That was our wish.”

“We were able to ‘stuff the bus’ … filling the seats with loaded backpacks destined to help students of all ages,” said Stevens.

The 100 backpacks were broken down by age group with 18 each for high school-aged boys and girls, 16 each for junior high-aged boys and girls and 16 each for elementary-aged boys and girls.