YMCA and Supply Sacks join forces to help area students

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From left to right are NAPD Officers Tom Wade, Matt Nettnay, and Julie Cannata, Betty Poirier, Andera Scarbrough and Alica Bennette of the state's Department of Children and Families, and YMCA Director of Food Access Alyson Centrella. Over the summer, the YMCA and Supply Sacks programs joined forces to collect and distribute more than 3,000 backpacks for foster children and area students. Staff Photo/Leslie Deschenes

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

This fall, more than 3,000 students will get some help for their first day of school.

Over the summer, the Hockomock YMCA’s Operation Backpack teamed up with the Supply Sacks charity, run by Elizabeth Poirier for many years to benefit children in foster care. Together, the two groups collected backpacks and school supplies for more than 3,000 children, with a portion to go to the Department of Children and Families. Those backpacks will be distributed to foster children.

Poirier said that the partnership came about while she and her husband Kevin were volunteering at the Y to distribute bags of food to those in need. Each summer the Y also collects backpacks for area students, and the two sides began discussing how they could work together. Betty said this partnership doesn’t change Supply Sacks’ goal or how many children it can help.

I think the draw is huge,” said Elizabeth of the donations. “If you give people a good, legitimate reason and they know for certain it will go to those who deserve it, they’ll give. We see it every week when we go.”

NAPD Officer Julie Cannata said that area police also helped collect donations for the backpacks. She has worked with Poirier in the past and agreed that working with the Y was a good idea.

We just wanted to work together,” said Cannata.

The Backpack Drive is a collaborative effort made possible by the YMCA staff, program participants, partners and neighbors to provide kids the confidence that comes when boys and girls are able to go to school prepared.

Donation bins were placed at all Hockomock Area YMCA facilities—Invensys Foxboro Branch, 67 Mechanic St., Foxborough; Bernon Family Branch, 45 Forge Hill Road, Franklin; Mansfield Arts and Education Center, 40 Balcom Street, Mansfield; and North Attleborough Branch, 300 Elmwood St., North Attleborough.

Convening donors and volunteers to support area families in need reflects our Y’s commitment to serve and strengthen our communities together,” said Jim Downs, CEO of the Hockomock Area YMCA. “Having access to backpacks and supplies is an integral part of a student’s success. As many families continue to face financial hardships due to the pandemic and the cost of living, we are working to make sure that kids have the supplies they need to start the upcoming school year off right.”