Local teen filling backpacks with school supplies for needy students

Photo by Katie Onesi

A Frontenac Secondary School student is filling backpacks for needy families for a second year in a row.

17 year-old Katie Onesi launched her Backpack Project fundraiser on Facebook on Friday, Jul. 31. So far she has raised enough money to purchase 26 backpacks and fill them with school supplies, all to be donated by September.

She said the contents vary depending on the age of the student recipient. “Usually I give everyone a binder, a notebook, a composition book, loose leaf paper, markers, pencil crayons and pencils,” she said. She also includes a pencil case, glue stick, calculator, pencil sharpener and pens.

Due to COVID-19, this year she has added face masks and hand sanitizer.

“I have two local businesses helping me out,” she said. “Barking Up The Green Tree is donating masks. We have a buy-one-get-one deal. For each 10-pack of masks that is bought, she is donating 10 to me.”

“We have also have Daft brewery, downtown, donating the hand sanitizer,” she said.

Collecting donations through Facebook

Onesi has collected over $400 so far through a Facebook donation platform. She has already exceeded last year’s total of 20 bags.

She plans to keep collected donations towards the end of August, and then reaching out to see who in the community needs a bag.

Bags are distributed based on personal request, using the honour system. She and her parents amass a list of addresses, fill their car with backpacks, and then head out to distribute them themselves. She said she is also considering reaching out to local shelters or non-profits as the program grows.

‘Something small, but something I could do.’

Onesi first ran the program in 2019, and started by collecting used backpacks and supplies. She got the idea when she saw a Facebook post about donating old school bags to the needy.

“I realized that would be a good idea,” she said. “Something small, but something I could do.”

She is still collecting used bags as well. “Two people have also donated their beer bottle empties to me,” she said. “It’s a different way but it gets me the money.”

Onesi said she is running the program because she believes school is a place where everyone should feel comfortable.

“A lot of families struggle with money,” she said. “I want to be able to help other students feel comfortable in school and stop them from feeling left out because they don’t have something simple like a new bag.”

Onesi is looking forward to returning to school herself in the fall, after months of school closure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I started this because I really value my education,” she said.

Samantha Butler-Hassan, Local Journalism Initiative

Samantha Butler-Hassan is a staff writer and life-long Kingston resident. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading and exploring the community. This article has been made possible with the support of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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