Bienestar Backpack Project v2 - 2011 - aka How To Make a Difference in the World

One year ago, I somehow convinced friends, family, workmates-along with my company and then eventually a local Best Buy store, to donate school supplies and backpacks for a crazy idea I had to help 99 deserving kids start out school with a shiny new bag full of necessary school supplies.And it somehow happened. I'm not sure how.

This year, I somehow came up with enough bags and supplies for 130 children. And had five bags and about four boxes of extra school supplies leftover! Not sure how it happened this year either...I had a few heroes at the home stretch, and I'm not sure what I would have done without them!

It wasn't just me, of course. I owe some HUGE thanks to the amazing support of all my friends, but I had some big donors in my coworkers, Christy and Nancy, as well as a wonderful volunteer friend and one lovely blogger.

This year, I was able to get more corporate sponsors-
That's five large groups helping -woohoo!! I'm hoping to have their support again next year and maybe go bigger! New shirt for each child? New shoes? iPads (ha)??

This project is for a group of deserving children at Bienestar. The children I'm helping are all registered members of the Bienestar homework club. The homework club is essential for some of the kids whose parents are monolingual in Spanish and some of whom are at a 7th grade education level. It provides a safe and friendly environment to learn and excel in their schoolwork, and help lead them towards a better future. These kids have to commit to bringing in signed progress reports, allowing the club leader to track all their progress in school all year. They have to commit to having good attendance and good behavior. They are committing to care about their education and be an active learner. Such an amazing program and they have proven success records with their youth.

I learned of the homework club last year and during a discussion it came out that some of these kids start school without supplies, including paper, pencils, but also without a backpack. It broke my heart to think about having to send my child to school without a backpack on the first day. Kids are kids, and whether you are poor or rich - you have similar feelings - and going to school unprepared does not get your school year started out on the right foot. Last year, I vowed to help - and supplied for Bienestar's four homework clubs.

This year, with all my amazing and generous support - I was able to supply the four homework clubs from last year, but also the new homework club starting up this year. 130 kids across five locations are all starting off school with a smile -because of one persons desire to make a difference.

I don't say this to brag. I'm pretty humble really - but I was in awe this year that my living room was so full of supplies and knowing that I was behind this collection. It really only takes one person. One person to kick off the project, to spread the word, to start collecting, to offer others an easy way to donate. One person CAN make a difference.

Now imagine if we all did something. If every ONE of us just had an idea on how to help...and then actually followed through. Do something. Dream big. You never know how big it might go....all ideas start out as an idea in one person's mind - who knows what you are capable of - you have to just try.

I am so honored to coordinate this project for Bienestar and their kids. I am so humbled by the giving nature of those around me. I am in awe of the power of humanity. And I am in love with the knowledge of what just one person can do to make a difference.

Thank you everyone who helped. You have made a difference. You are special people.

I've never been so happy to see my living room such a mess!

Wonderful friends helping sort and count supplies during the week before the project.
I host the stuffing of the backpacks as a volunteer project through Hands on Greater Portland. I had a perfect group of volunteers meet up on a Saturday morning, who came out to help get all the supplies sorted into the 130 backpacks. Best Buy doesn't just provide product, they also send manpower to help! They are rockstars.
The kids at the complex we have the project at love to help unload. I think they are mostly just amazed at how much I can fit in my car.
The group shot!

The adults sort the supplies in an assembly line fashion on tables.
The Executive Director of Bienestar, Karen Shawcross, helping sort supplies.

We have the kids sort the bags by grade for us. (note: these are not "the kids")

We tag the bags by grade.

And then the stuffing begins.....

I almost stole this baby.

More bag stuffing....

And more....
And still more.......
90 minutes later: WE DID IT!!!   130 bags - stuffed and ready to go!!!
The final piece...loading the bags away to be distributed to the homework clubs.

Such a great project.

If you're looking for advice on how to start a project like this, email me. I'd love to brainstorm ideas!!


  1. unmitigated me said...:

    That is amazing! Where i work, we have the boxes of folders. A couple thousand folders...and we just got the updated ones and can't use the old ones anymore. If I can get them donated, would you be interested for next year's project?

  1. Denis said...:

    Wow that's a lot of supplies and people that you organized
    plus lots of time.

    It's obvious that this is your passion and I suspect that if
    it keep increasing it could
    become your main job.
    You would create or join a non-profit which would pay your salary etc

  1. You are a hero, doing the heavy lifting of love.

  1. Kaylen's mom said...:

    Amazing job again! Your dad and I are very proud of you!!


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