by Ardeana Hamlin

of The Weekly Staff

Holly Lundquist of Brewer launched on July 25 a project she calls Back to School with the Proper Tools. Her goal is to fill 500 backpacks with school supplies and give them to children whose families can’t afford to provide such equipment for their school-age children.

Lundquist said Back to School with the Proper Tools began to take shape last fall when she learned that several children in her extended family needed school supplies. “They needed assistance so my husband and I got them backpacks. Then I started couponing — I’m a couponer — for school supplies,” Lundquist said.

Couponing involves clipping money-saving coupons from magazines and newspapers, or printing them from websites, That worked just fine. Then Lundquist wrote about her effort on her Facebook page. “I caught fire after that,” she said. “Each day I post the status of what supplies I have and what is needed.” For example, one day she had not supply of looseleaf notebook paper so she posted that fact. “When I came home there were 26 packages [of the paper] on my doorstep. In a single day I went from zero to 26.”

Lunquist said she is very organized and has a room in her house where she can sort and store the school supplies and backpacks as they are donated. Her husband Dana Lundquist helps her fill the backpacks, Each backpack is labeled with the name of its recipient and its destination.

At first, Lundquist thought she would limit the project to schools in Brewer, but since she is getting requests for backpacks through her Facebook page, she has broadened her scope and plans to fill any requests she receives from teachers, schools or nonprofit organizations in Maine.

“I’ll find a way to get them [backpacks] there,” Lundquist said. “If a child needs a backpack, we will get them one.”

Lundquist’s goal for the school season is 500 backpacks. “I am amazed by the number of parents who have to choose between buying groceries or school supplies for their children,” she said. “I would like to see Back to School with the Proper Tools go further than the back to school season, I’d like to be year round. That’s my goal.”

Lundquist is seeking donations of backpacks, pencils, pens, highlighters, markers, crayons, colored pencils, notebooks, three-ring binders, paper for the binders, scissors, staplers, erasers, rulers, glue, glue sticks, and tape. Most needed items at the moment, Lundquist said, are backpacks, staplers and and tape.

Lundquist, in collaboration with Generations Boutique and Art Studio in Brewer, will hold a Paint and Sip event 5:30-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, at Generations, to benefit Back to School with the Proper Tools. The event will include an auction with items such as gift certificates and gift baskets donated by local businesses. Refreshments and cupcakes will be supplied by local baker Courtney Harris and Melissa White of Tastefully Simple. Roxanne Noddin and Crystal Ridley, boutique owners will hold a drawing for a gift certificate for a free paint and sip class at another date to whomever brings in school supplies that evening to donate. Swag bags full of coupons, samples, etc. will be given to each attendee.

The cost to attend is $34.95 with $10 of that amount earmarked for Back to School with the Proper Tools. Only 35 reservations will be taken. To make a reservation, go to generationsbrewer.com or call Roxanne Noddin at 989-9003.

Lundquist has arranged school supply drop-off points at Generations Boutique and Art Studio at 153 State St. in Brewer, The Kneaded Touch at 1460 Hammond St. in Bangor and Pouzel Physical Therapy at 33 Penn Plaza, Suite B, in Bangor.

As of Aug. 4, 35 backpacks had been donated and Lundquist was optimistic that her goal of 500 would be reached.

“I have a photo of a child [who received a backpack], smiling from ear to ear, going off to kindergarten — I hope those children will be successful in school and that they will grow up and do for other children what we have been able to. I had a good childhood so it’s only right that I pass it on.”

For information, find Back to School with the Proper Tools on Facebook, email her at hollyblundquist@gmail.com or call 631-8510.