One backpack, two backpack, three backpack, four, and more


Updated: 3:26 p.m., Sept. 7: Nothing says “back to school” like a fresh new backpack filled with carefully selected supplies. But with inflation and the growing costs of said supplies, the task becomes much harder.

Thanks to East Meadow Kiwanis, roughly 160 kids in the East Meadow School District will have a new backpack with everything they need. Members young and old gathered at Coldwell Banker American Homes on Hempstead Turnpike last week to assemble them.

“I’ve seen the generosity go up over the years,” said Jennifer Reinhardt, president of East Meadow Kiwanis. “Any time that we do this, the community comes together — the businesses, organizations — I’m always so floored at the generosity of our community.”

The idea for this fundraiser came from a similar project Reinhardt participated in at the ABC television network. Reinhardt created this “Pack a Backpack” drive with co-chairs Diane Krug and Donna Goldstein. The idea struck to create one in East Meadow in 2020 once the summer was winding down, and they were looking for more ways to get involved in the community.

The club gets a list from each school in the district with how many backpacks they need. Once the backpacks are done, they get dropped off at the Leon Campo Salisbury Center, where they are then distributed to students who need them.

Supplies come from all over, Reinhardt said. The New York Islanders donated 100 folders, 100 notebooks and 100 packages containing 19 different school supply items. The East Meadow Fire Department donated 400 filled baggies to be put into the backpacks. Sunrise Assisted Living of East Meadow, and Assemblyman John Mikulin, donated supplies as well. Coldwell Banker American Homes, and East Meadow's A&C Pest Management kept a box up in their offices to collect supplies too.

Apart from donations, the club received a $1,776 grant from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund in order to keep the fundraiser going. Clubs can apply for help with specific projects. In their application, the East Meadow Kiwanians talked about the importance of getting a child off to a great start in school, and how they were partnering with different organizations to make that happen.

“This isn’t just a fundraiser, it’s a way to directly help the kids. And we’re all about the children,” said Kiwanian Kevin Kamper. “Kids need Kiwanis, so wherever there is a need to fill, we try to fill it.”

Especially with how much the cost of school supplies has gone up over the past year, he added.

“So, this is a way for a child to not have to worry on the first day of school if they have the tools they need to succeed,” Kamper said.

The cost of school supplies has jumped more than 25 percent since 2017, according to the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. Five years ago, a typical household would spend $688. Today, it’s more than $860 with overall spending growing from $29.5 billion to $36.9 billion.

“The cost of supplies has gone up so much, binders in particular,” Reinhardt said. “You’re definitely seeing inflation in this.”

The federation’s survey showed stationery items went up nearly 22 percent, boys and girls supplies rose 10 percent, and costs for educational books and supplies rose nearly 5 percent.

“I think it is important to make sure every kid is not excluded if they don’t have the means to have the things they need for school,” said Taleen Krug, another Kiwanian volunteer. “This helps so many different kids in so many different schools in East Meadow.

“You never want to not have what everybody else has, and it’s really nice when people can donate and get items to people who need them.”