Darlene Quinn, director at Tracy Interfaith, said the nonprofit handed out 875 backpacks filled with school supplies in 2013 before running out. After that, children were turned away.
A check of the shelves Monday revealed only 22 backpacks for the distribution slated to begin Aug. 1.
“We need as many backpacks as we can get,” Quinn said. “We have very few.”
The backpack drive, in its fifth year, is intended to give each school-age child of parents registered with Interfaith a new backpack filled with paper, pencils, crayons, a binder, two-pocket folders and other supplies.
“We don’t want them to stand out at school because they don’t have anything,” Quinn said. “We want them to be like everyone else.”
Interfaith, 311 W. Grant Line Road, is a faith-based nonprofit food bank that gives food, clothing and other help to low-income families and individuals living within Tracy Unified and Lammersville Unified school districts.
In May, Quinn said, Interfaith served 5,796 clients, including 2,223 children and infants.
Renee Reece, chairwoman of the board, said the number of people who depend on the charity has not declined in recent years, and just as many children are expected to need backpacks this year as in 2013.
“It would be wonderful to not have to turn the children away. It really would be wonderful to be able to supply the ones that really need it,” Reece said. “So many of our clients are struggling and have larger families, and that’s a big expense on top of shoes and school clothes.”
Backpacks are needed for kindergartners through 12th-graders. Backpacks for older children cannot be red or blue, to avoid problems with gang colors. Also needed are three-ring binders, notebooks, two-pocket folders and packages of wide-ruled and college-ruled paper.
Quinn said that Interfaith already has enough pens, No. 2 pencils and crayons, but extra supplies — pencil sharpeners, rulers, markers and colored pencils, for example — are welcome.
Other groups in Tracy also give out school supplies, Quinn said, but it can be hard to help a family with children of various ages and grade levels.
“What I particularly like about our program compared to others is they may catch one child in a family, but the people that come in here — most of the low-income people of Tracy — when they come in here, if there are six kids that qualify on our charts, they get six backpacks,” Quinn said.
Reece said people are also welcome to give money to support the backpack drive.
“It’s nice, if people don’t want to go out and actually do the shopping themselves, to make a donation to us specify for the backpack program. It helps us make it more equal for everyone,” Reece said. “We really try to make sure everything has an equal amount (of school supplies) in it.”
Donated backpacks and school supplies can be dropped off from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the receiving area at the back of the Interfaith building.
The backpacks will be given to children starting Aug. 4, a week before the first day of school in Tracy Unified School District, Aug. 11.
“I think it helps them take a little more pride in starting the new school year,” Reece said. “They don’t have to worry they don’t have anywhere to put things, or the backpack being dirty or worn — it gives them a fresh start.”
To make a monetary donation to the backpack program, go to www.tracyinterfaith.org.
• Contact Glenn Moore at email@example.com or 830-4252.