Lorna Thomas-Farquharson, the chair of West Hartford’s Board of Education, speaks at Staples on Monday. Thomas-Farquharson is surrounded by (from left) Adnan Hoque, manager of the West Hartford store, Galo Rodriguez, president of the Village for Families and Children, and West Hartford Board of Education member Clare Neseralla.

Hartford group seeks 1,000 backpacks for students before school starts

August 26, 2022

Originally published in CT Insider – West Hartford News by Michael Walsh
Aug. 24, 2022

Citing inflation and the rising cost of school supplies, The Village for Families and Children kicked off a back-to-school drive in partnership with Staples on Monday.

The Hartford-based nonprofit is hoping to collect 1,000 backpacks this week — along with other school supplies — just in time for the start of school in Hartford.

“We know that there is a link between the pressure and the stress that families go through and the academic performance for children,” Galo Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of The Village, said inside of the Albany Avenue Staples in West Hartford. “We can relieve some of those pressures, especially now when inflation is going higher.”

Rodriguez said families are expected to spend $60 to $80 more on school supplies this year than last year.

“You can imagine when families have to make a decision between food and school supplies,” Rodriguez said. “I am sure they will choose food — the first primary need. But school supplies shouldn’t be left behind. It’s tied to how the children feel. They want to go to school feeling great with something new.”

Sorgalim Mendez Rodriguez is a Hartford parent who has firsthand seen the need her community faces. This year, her daughter is entering the eighth grade at Aflred E. Burr Middle School in Hartford.

Sorgalim Mendez Rodriguez

“I’ve seen firsthand the necessity in the community,” Mendez Rodriguez said. “With inflation, you have to pay the rent and bills, so affording school materials for the kids is one of the stressful things in these times. If they have more than one child, it’s more stressful for them. The Village has been such a great support for not only my family, but for all the families in that community.”

Mendez Rodriguez said she’s seen families who have had to grapple with making tough financial decisions, passing on new school supplies to instead feed their families. Sometimes, she said, it’s the shame of having to ask for help that stops people from receiving assistance.

“I’ve known people who have been in that situation,” Mendez Rodriguez said. “At the beginning of the pandemic, I was in that situation because of high rent. I had to work through the pandemic. How are we going to do it? And if you’re getting laid off of work, how are you going to be able to pay your bills and rent and everything? I know families who went through this. Sometimes it’s the shame. But we’re here to help.”

Lorna Thomas-Farquharson, chair of West Hartford’s Board of Education, said it’s going to take a lot to support the region’s young students.

“This is a wonderful opportunity of recognizing all that it takes to help make our young people successful,” Thomas-Farquharson said. “We must equip our young people to do well. The school is providing the education … but we must ensure that we give them the tools to help them be successful.”

Donations this week can be made at the West Hartford store, as well as the West Simsbury and Glastonbury Staples locations. An in-person event is set to be held at all three locations on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“Staples is honored to be able to partner with The Village to be able to give back to the community,” said Adnan Hoque, manager of the West Hartford store. “We want to make it easier for students to look forward to school after the past few years of uncertainty that everyone’s been going through. This will make it a little bit easier on the families to not have to choose between food and supplies.”

Monetary donations that will go toward the purchase of school supplies can also be made on The Village’s website. The nonprofit is hoping to reach its goal by Monday, the day school starts in Hartford.

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