As summer winds to a close and thousands of Westchester children returned to school, many benefitted from a countywide initiative to provide free backpacks and grade-appropriate school supplies.
The Sharing Shelf, one of many programs established by Family Services of Westchester, recently concluded its annual Backpacks to School program and, this year, received over 100 backpacks donated by Westchester County Correction Officers.
Throughout the summer, Correction Officers Melissa Lugo, Stacy Brown and others received more than $800 in donations from their fellow members of service. The officers then braved the back-to-school shopping crowds, buying backpacks, pencils, binders and other needed school supplies.
Officer Lugo, a 13-year member of service and a mom of a preschooler, said: “My fellow officers and I are very fortunate. The career we’ve chosen allows us to provide for ourselves and our families. However, in dealing with an incarcerated population, we recognize that a lot of Westchester residents -- including many children -- are challenged each day to provide for the basics, whether its clothing, shelter or nutrition."
Nearly 60,000 Westchester children live in low-income homes and 36 percent of public school children qualify for free or reduced lunch.
The Sharing Shelf, Westchester’s clothing bank for children, collects new and gently-used clothing and then distributes it to children and teens at no cost.
In 2017, its Backpacks to School program provided over 7,700 children with a week’s work of clothing and distributed more than 1,400 backpacks to kids in over 30 school districts.
Joseph K. Spano, Westchester Commissioner of Correction said: “The Backpacks to School program is one of many ‘give-back’ initiatives that both our administration and our workforce fully support. For many years, the Department of Correction has partnered with Feeding Westchester on our gardening program, in which inmates grow healthy produce for donation to food-insecure families."
"Earlier this year, our officers donated winter coats to the Jan Peek House in Peekskill. In the coming months, we will be supporting campaigns to increase awareness of breast cancer and the challenges associated with autism," Spano said.
For more details about the Backpacks to School Program or many other FSW programs, or to get involved, visit www.fsw.org or e-mail The Sharing Shelf’s Program Director, Deborah Blatt, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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