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Rye Backpack Drive Fills Needs For Beneficiaries, Benefactors

Vicki, left, Jack, center and Emma Bellescio, right, fill backpacks with school supplies for the less fortunate. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Emily Salvino, right, signs in to volunteer at Helping Hands Annual Mission Backpack Event. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
More than one hundred help fill backpacks. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Mount Vernon residents Aashawn Barnes, left, and Kojo Gordon, center. are WestHab volunteers. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Jacmine Arteaga, of Port Chester, helps fill backpacks. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

RYE, N.Y. –The Helping Hands Annual Mission Backpack Event in Rye not only connects 2,050 local kids in need with new backpacks and supplies, but acts as a service project for many students completing their Confirmation.

Rye Brook’s Emily Savino attends Resurrection Church, where the event took place Monday, Aug. 18 and Tuesday, Aug. 19. She was one of more than one hundred people Tuesday to form a long assembly line that efficiently filled each of the 2,050 backpacks with 18 items, like pens, pencils, notepads, binders, index cards and more.

“I felt good because they get to start school with new supplies instead of having old ones and they can be like the other kids,” said Savino, who volunteered with her mother, Liz, and five-year-old brother, Niko.

Mamaroneck’s Colin Kelley, 13, also volunteered for his Confirmation.

“It’s very well organized,” he said. “It’s a good way to give back to the community.”

In its 27th year, the backpack event runs like a well-oiled machine, according to Rye’s Laura Pellegrini, who brought her three children. She has attended for years, while it was a first for her friend Fami Szterenbuch, who brought her son, Luca Martins.

“I think it’s important for the kids to understand what volunteerism is and to help kids who aren’t as lucky as them,” she said.

Once packed and zipped, the backpacks were divvied up between the 17 social services agencies that then distribute them to the families they serve. WestHab had four agencies represented and received 600 backpacks, said Susan Salice, co-president of the Rye-based Helping Hands.

Port Chester High School sophomore Jaheed Gonzalez helped carry out 292 backpacks for the Don Brosco Community Center, one of the 17 agencies. He said he used it growing up and now volunteers there.

Catholic Charity in Yonkers walked away with 125 backpacks, which Shannon Kelly said is a tremendous help for their clients.

“To give them something extra special like this so they don’t have to take It out of their own pockets so they can pay for rent or food is just tremendous help to us,” she said.

The average family spends more than $100 on school supplies, whereas Helping Hands spends $25 for brand name products, said Brigitte Sarnoff, co-president of Helping Hands.

“I’ve got twins so I know what it’s like to pay double for everything,” said Vicki Bellescio, a Darien, Conn. resident who attends Resurrection Church. “I think it’s the least that we can do.”

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