GREENFIELD — Yellow minions dotted one backpack; a menacing-looking Spider-Man graced another.

As Brianna Brachbuhl sorted through the bags, snipping off tags and sorting them into colorful piles, she thought of all the youngsters who will see these characters and smile.

The backpacks, neatly organized in the J.B. Stephens Elementary School gym Thursday by volunteers, will soon be distributed to county school children through the United Way of Central Indiana’s Backpack Attack program.

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The school supplies drive for students in kindergarten through eighth grade allows children who might not be able to afford school supplies to start the school year prepared for class.

At upcoming school registrations, 17 schools across Hancock County will provide school supplies for students who qualify to receive assistance, said United Way of Central Indiana board member Greg Mankey.

About 29 percent of Hancock County students from kindergarten through eighth grade qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, one of the main ways the organization identifies students who could benefit from the Backpack Attack, said Jeannie Roberts, volunteer engagement coordinator for United Way of Central Indiana.

Parents have told Roberts the balanced school calendar adopted by area school districts — which shortens summer break by several weeks — gives them less time to save for school supplies, so they are thankful for the program.

Students will begin the school year with everything they need, ready to learn, said Weston Elementary School social worker Terry Miller. In addition, supplies are available throughout the year to new students or students who need a replacement item.

Miller and other school social workers set up a supply area, similar to how items are set up in the store, and students are invited to “shop” for whatever they need.

“Hancock County does such a good job taking care of their own,” she said.

Brianna attended the sorting day for the first time on Thursday, bringing along her sister, Bethany Brachbul, and a friend, Katie Strange, who helped her prepare the donated backpacks to be transported to area schools.

Seeing the piles of crayons, folders, notebooks and glue sticks donated by the community was wonderful, Brianna Brachbul said.

Kinzie Sitton and Grant Hinton, both 15, spent Thursday morning sorting pencil cases. Grant, a first-time volunteer, said Backpack Attack is a great idea for the county.

“This is a small town; it’s not the wealthiest, and (Backpack Attack) really helps out a lot of kids,” he said.

Sorting the items is important because different teachers have specific requests on their class lists, from folder color to the type of paper needed, Roberts said.

United Way of Central Indiana board member Greg Mankey, who volunteered alongside his wife, Linda, said he was shocked to discover how many county students need extra help.

“We see all these people at church who pack up and go on mission trips,” he said, “But the need is right here next door.”

Pull Quote

“We see all these people at church who pack up and go on mission trips, but the need is right here next door.”

– Greg Mankey, United Way of Central Indiana board member

By the numbers

17 county schools receive Backpack Attack school supplies

29 percent of local students qualify to receive school supplies from Backpack Attack

80 volunteers sorted, counted and packed school supplies Thursday to be delivered to county schools

$2,000 was donated to United Way of Central Indiana to purchase school supplies for children in need

If you go

United Way of Central Indiana will continue to accept donations of money or school supplies for Backpack Attack until the beginning of the school year. Donations may be brought to the Greenfield Chamber of Commerce building, where United Way of Central Indiana is housed:

1 Courthouse Plaza,

Greenfield, IN 46140

Donations may also be sent to:

United Way of Central Indiana

P.O. Box 714

Greenfield, IN 46140

Author photo
Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.