Hundreds of children will be heading back to school with book bags stuffed with fresh pencils and notebooks through the efforts of Oaks Integrated Care.
The nonprofit worked with over 20 local businesses and community groups to collect backpacks and supplies for 900 children whose parents are involved in Oaks’ health and social services programs. Many clients have disabilities or are struggling with mental health issues and cannot afford classroom necessities.
“We realize people we see are trying to recover,” said Pam Collins, chief development officer at Oaks. “They need to spend their time getting better more than worrying about school supplies.”
As part of Operation Fill-A-Backpack, which began 10 years ago, Oaks begins coordinating fundraisers with local groups and collecting supplies in the spring, months before parents begin worrying about the coming school year, and distributes items at the end of summer.
Sending students back to school with supplies they need — including lunch boxes, binders, notebooks, pencils, glue sticks and crayons — can help them feel more confident, Collins said.
“You can’t imagine going back to school and not fitting in because you don’t have notebooks or pencils,” she said. “We want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Oaks Integrated Care on Woodlane Road offers over 230 health and social services programs for vulnerable adults, children and families in New Jersey, including group homes, in-home services, case management, crisis stabilization services, food pantries and special needs supportive housing.
For more information, visit oaksintcare.org.