Willingboro students receive new school supplies and backpacks

August 25, 2016

WILLINGBORO -- Just in time for the school year, about 2,000 backpacks now have a new home.

Thanks to a partnership between the school district and the nonprofit Better Education for New Jersey Kids, district students have brand-new backpacks filled with school supplies.

“I love it,” parent Alisand Angevine said. “It’s great to see the community come together.” 

Other parents, like Kay Busby, said seeing the community come out to support students and their families made her excited for the school year.

“As a new parent to the school system -- he’s going into pre-K,” Busby said, gesturing to her 4-year-old son, Aidan, “I’ve been going on the Willingboro page and seeing all the activities they have for students. I’m all excited.” 

The event has been taking place for about four years, according to Superintendent Ronald Taylor. Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, introduced the district and the nonprofit.

Gerard Green, outreach coordinator at the Better Education Institute, said it’s been a great partnership.

Green, who was greeting families at the door of J.C. Stuart Elementary School on Sunset Road, said seeing the kids smile was his favorite.

“That’s the best part of it,” he said with a laugh. 

Parent Annell Belfield, secretary for the Burlington County PTA, said she loved volunteering to help with this cause.

“I like being involved,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful because people are struggling. It means a lot to give a kid a backpack. This shows that there are people that really value the kids in Willingboro.”

Singleton, who grew up in Willingboro, said that’s the main reason he got the two groups together. 

“I couldn’t think of a better place than my hometown,” he said. 

Singleton recalled going back-to-school shopping with his family and said he enjoyed watching the kids get excited to pick out their backpacks. He said it’s especially important for families who might not be able to afford new supplies.

“I’ve been there,” Belfield said about struggling to afford school essentials. “Sometimes it’s just not there.” 

Families with children in kindergarten through 12th grade plan to spend an average of $673.57 on apparel and accessories, electronics, shoes and school supplies this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. That’s up from last year’s $630.36, for a total of $27.3 billion, according to the survey, and up about 54.8 percent over the past 10 years.

At Thursday’s giveaway, supplies provided by the Better Education for New Jersey Kids included notebooks, pencils, erasers, folders, rulers, pens, highlighters and backpacks in a variety of colors. They were passed out between two locations, the Stuart school and the Memorial Middle School on Van Sciver Parkway.

The Willingboro Education Association supplied the students at both locations with water ice while they got their supplies. 

“It takes a community to raise kids,” said Kara Keefe, a teacher and vice president of the association. 

Keefe said the organization tries to take part in as many community events as it can. 

The All Things Are Possible Foundation was also in attendance to hand out candy and informational cards to students and their families. USI Insurance helped collect tickets for the backpacks as volunteer parents and teachers handed them out. 

“It’s always fun to see the families come back to school,” Taylor said. 

He said he enjoyed seeing the students full of excitement about returning to school and seeing their friends and teachers.

School starts Sept. 6.