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London, Ont. regional services launch annual backpack drive for students’ ‘Best First Day’

The Thames Valley Education Foundation (TVEF), United Way Elgin Middlesex and The Salvation Army London Community and Family Services have once again partnered for the Best First Day community-wide backpack drive. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

While summer vacation is still here for another month, the Thames Valley Education Foundation (TVEF), United Way Elgin Middlesex and The Salvation Army London Community and Family Services are starting early in partnering together for the 2022 Best First Day community-wide backpack drive.

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For over 20 years, the initiative has been working over the summer months to gather backpacks and various school supplies to make sure children have the opportunity to “start the school year off right.”

“Best First Day’s goal is to provide support to the families that need it so they can focus on their basic needs,” said Jackie Ellefsen, TVEF lead. “The reality is that backpacks and supplies cost money and for some families, that cost is weighed against buying food, clothing or shelter. We want to lift some of that burden and do our best to ensure that every student walks into class in September with the supplies they need to learn.”

Whether it’s family or financially based, Ellefsen said the impact of the pandemic on local communities over these last two years has been felt by many.

“Not only are we seeing that increased need, but we also know that more kids are going to be returning to school,” she said. “I think we’re carefully considering that we are going to have increased need this year for sure.”

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In 2021, more than 3,200 backpacks were distributed to students at the Thames Valley District School Board, the London District Catholic School Board, Indigenous communities and women’s shelters in London.

According to Ellesfsen, the goal for this year is to collect 4,000 backpacks for students in London and Elgin, Middlesex and Oxford counties.

“This drive really makes a difference to the kids who need it,” said Kelly Ziegner, president and CEO of United Way Elgin Middlesex. “Thanks to the generosity of area businesses, individuals and volunteers, we can provide thousands of kids with those basic items they need to start the school year off right.”

According to a media release from TVEF, students, families and guardians interested in picking up a backpack can contact their local principal to make a request.

Students, families and guardians interested in picking up a backpack are asked to contact their school principal to make a request.

All donations are accepted until Friday, Sept. 2.

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