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The Villages
Sunday, May 19, 2024

Local churches donate backpacks for area students

Commencing its second successful year, Jean Kelly Backpacks4Kids made Wildwood Elementary and Middle School students joyful as 1,200 backpacks filled with school supplies were delivered to students Friday morning.

Wildwood Elementary students beam after receiving new backpacks.
Wildwood Elementary students beam after receiving new backpacks.

Last week, the volunteers of the program also donated 950 backpacks to students from kindergarten to 12th grade at the Villages Charter School.

Supplies included in the backpacks were packed according to each grade’s supply list; for example upper level students received items such as scientific calculators.

The newly increased budget this year enabled the program to extend their help to not only Wildwood elementary, but also its middle and high school and The Villages Charter School for the first time.

Villager Kathy Knue puts a backpack on a first grader.
Villager Kathy Knue puts a backpack on a first grader.

Rev. Donn and Katherine Poole, coordinators of Jean Kelly Backpack4Kids, have been working hard since April to gather supplies and achieve the organizations’ goals while dedicating over 20 hours a week toward the program.

“This project has changed my life,” says Rev. Donn, “This is the day we look forward to, seeing the children receive the backpacks.”

Poole was extremely grateful as he noted the wonderful teamwork of New Covenant United Methodist Church, Saint Vincent de Paul Catholic, and Brownwood Baptist Church.

Furthermore, he also expressed deep gratitude for donations from the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, Winn-Dixie  and the Farmers Markets held d in Brownwood Paddock Square and Spanish Springs Town Square.

Eigth graders received backpacks on Friday,
Eigth graders received backpacks on Friday,

The “educational-missional project” was named in honor of Jean Kelly, a member of the Brownwood Baptist Church, who “developed a real passion for children” and had an extreme devotion to the mission that was unperturbed by her illness. After her death, the group named itself the Jean Kelly Backpacks4Kids in tribute to Kelly’s efforts and “profound influence.”

Many of the volunteers who distributed backpacks were Villagers, including Kathy Knue and Marianne Whitney of the Village Collier, who called the backpack giveaway a “neighborhood project with the churches.”

Poole envisions expanding into “Jean Kelly Backpack4Kids of Central Florida,” once the group extends help throughout all of Sumter County, while continuing as an honest and non-profiting group that caters to genuine needs.

He also hopes to collect funds earlier next year for the group, beginning with fundraising through the Garden State Guys’ concert at the New Covenant Church in January.

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