Youth group stuffs backpacks for back to school

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Impressive.

That’s what Robert Collier, 13, said about efforts of the Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church youth group’s “Giving Back, Pack” Drive 2009.

The project, launched last year by Anna Higginbotham, 12, is designed to provide backpacks to students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them.

When Mo Flaherty, director of youth ministry at the church, asked youth group member Tori Krupa to total up the backpacks Wednesday night, there was an expectant pause.

There were smiles all around when Tori announced the total: 530.

The students, who had gathered at the church to sort and stuff the backpacks with school supplies, made an assembly line as they grabbed pencils, folders, crayons and other supplies.

Robert Collier, who will be attending Haile Middle School, said he still hopes the drive will net the 900 backpacks the group set out to collect.

Flaherty said maybe it can still happen. Donations of supplies, backpacks or cash can be left at the church, 12905 State Road 70 East.

“One backpack will make a huge difference to a child,” Flaherty said.

Williams Marsh said the youth group was happy to help Anna Higginbotham out this year, noting that she carried a huge burden last year.

Emily Mingote, who will be attending Braden River High School, said, “I like to help other people. It gives you a good feeling.”

On Friday, the youth group will deliver 400 of the backpacks to Stillpoint House of Prayer in Bradenton.

The need is great, Flaherty said. Also requesting backpacks are Manatee Children’s Services and schools across the county.

Matt Grantham, a student at King Middle School, showed a bit of school pride, offering, “It’s a great school,” and then adding that “it feels kind of nice helping kids.”

For more information about Giving Back, Pack, call Mo Flaherty at 752-6770.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.