Austin Walsh/Daily Journal
Sasha Calderon, left, receives a backpack which will get her get ready for the upcoming school year during the giveaway event held in San Mateo.
Priscila Aramburo, 12, selects a free backpack full of donated school supplies she prefers during the Samaritan House backpack drive, held Wednesday, Aug. 5.
Thanks to the charitable efforts of local volunteers, hundreds of young San Mateo students will be furnished with most of the school supplies they need for the upcoming school year.
Students swarmed to Samaritan House, 4301 Pacific Blvd., for a free backpack giveaway Wednesday, Aug. 5, which served as an opportunity for members of low-income families to receive necessary education materials such as pencils, pens, erasers, notebooks and much more.
More than 100 children received the donated backpacks and supplies during the final day of the third annual charity event dedicated to making sure all local students have the same access to the supplies which will help them succeed in school.
Priscila Aramburo, 12, smiled as she carefully selected the white and blue backpack which would accompany her to her first day of school at Abbot Middle School in San Mateo.
Aramburo, who will be in seventh-grade next year, said she appreciates the opportunity to accept the free supplies, because it helps her prepare for classes.
She also said the donation allows her to spend more time enjoying her summer, as she will need to dedicate less of her free time to tracking down necessary supplies.
“I get all my stuff on time, that way I can spend time with my friends,” she said.
This year, Samaritan House gave out a total of 500 backpacks — all packed tirelessly by volunteers with materials donated by local residents and businesses — which were designated separately for students in elementary and high school.
Samaritan House CEO Bart Charlow said the nonprofit takes great pride in the ability to help prepare students in families of the more than 12,000 individuals it serves annually.
“We are trying to make sure kids are well equipped to go to school,” he said.
Beyond the backpack drive, Samaritan House will also work with many of the students who accepted the donation to develop their reading skills during the school year, as well as feed them meals when necessary, offer them access to clothing drives, and a variety of other valuable services.
The organization, which relies on the efforts of more than 2,000 volunteers to offer its services, is thrilled to have the opportunity to continuously give back, said Director of Development Mary Dunbar.
“It’s important to have places like the Samaritan House,” said Dunbar, while watching young students browse through the variety of backpacks set in front of them.
Charlow echoed those sentiments.
“This is a massive community effort, and it really builds the community,” he said.
The nonprofit’s efforts to help prepare students for the coming school year continues this week, as students can come back Thursday, Aug. 6, to Samaritan House and receive a free haircut.
Children signed up to receive services from Samaritan House can get a fresh look due to the charitable efforts of Great Clips, which will also make a financial donation to the nonprofit.
While her 5-year-old daughter browsed the backpacks filled with material for elementary school children, Lucila Calderon, of San Mateo, beamed with pride.
The opportunity to receive donated materials which can help her daughter Sasha prepare for school, while saving money, is a tremendous assistance to Calderon, she said.
“It is really good to have this chance,” she said. “These materials are really expensive, especially for a mother with three kids, so this comes in handy,” she said.
Offering local families peace of mind going into the new school year is one reason Samaritan House strives to offer such events, said Charlow, but the greater effort is to build confidence and preparedness for those in need.
“It’s not about pencils,” said Charlow. “It’s about equipping students with dignity.”
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