School is back in session across the area, and more than 2,000 students now have something that they’ll use every day thanks to generous community support and hundreds of volunteers.


Nearly 2,300 backpacks were recently prepared by volunteers, custom-packed for each child by school and grade during the annual Pack the Backpacks event sponsored by the Washington County School Supply Drive.


Around 180 late applicants also received the appropriate supplies, but not a backpack, since all packs had been committed, said Shelley Davidson, president and fundraising chairman.


During preparation weekend earlier this month, volunteers grabbed new, empty backpacks and “walked the line” of product tables, filling the backpacks with just the right supplies for each student’s school grade at fellowship hall of St. Luke’s Church in downtown Bartlesville.


“This year we had 251 volunteers between Aug. 2nd through Aug. 6th. We usually have around 300 volunteers so we were a little short this year, but the event still went smoothly,” Davidson said.


But the numbers may not capture the anticipation of the students waiting for a new backpack, the gratitude of their family, or, the big smiles on kids weighed down by a backpack chocked full of new school supplies, Davidson said.


“The recipients are always very grateful for our program, and the children’s faces light up when they see what their backpack for the new year looks like,” she said.


Indeed, the goal for Pack the Backpacks organizers is to help make school a better experience for both teachers and students, and the best reward is found on the kids’ faces.


The school fund drive started nearly 20 years ago, where volunteers first filled around 300 backpacks. That number has increased significantly, as about 2,500 students benefited on average in the last three years, Davidson said.


She expressed her thanks for the community’s year-round support through fundraisers, donations and volunteering.


“The event keeps going because of the passion of both our board and the community to help children reach their full potential in school, and providing students a backpack with the supplies they need for the year helps them start school successfully,” she said.


“We truly wouldn’t be able to continue the project without everyone who helps us throughout the year. We are truly thankful for all the support we receive, and I’m sure the children appreciate it as well,” Davidson said.


The 2020 school drive will soon be in high gear. To find out more information and pitch in, go to www.packthebackpacks.org or Facebook.