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CPAH gets families ready for school with backpack giveaway

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Frankie Wiseman helps her daughter Logan Bomgardner find scissors during a back-to-school backpack giveaway on Monday hosted by Community Partners for Affordable Housing.A line of people stretched out the doors of Greenburg Oaks’ community room on Monday, as families across Tigard and Southwest Portland waited to pick up some back-to-school supplies for their children.

Inside, volunteers helped families sort through long lists of essentials, filling backpacks with everything from glue sticks to notebooks. All for free.

The annual backpack giveaway is one of several similar events held by Community Partners for Affordable Housing throughout the year. The nonprofit began in Tigard more than two decades ago, offering cheap housing to families across the area.

CPAH’s backpack giveaway has been going for the better part of 15 years, said Shannon Wilson, director of operations at CPAH.

“There is a lot of research that shows that if kids are ready to go back to school, they will have a better mindset and be more excited, and that has an impact on their grades,” Wilson said. “That improves how well they do in school and how often they attend class.”

The families came from many of CPAH’s properties in Tigard, Metzger and Southwest Portland.

CPAH volunteers handed out 150 backpacks and $7,500 worth of supplies during the one-day event, enough for about 95 percent of CPAH’s school-age residents, according to the organization.

“As you are here, you realize, ‘Holy cow, we need a lot of stuff,’” said CPAH’s outreach manager Tracy Stepp, looking at boxes of backpacks and supplies on Monday.

In the past, families were handed a backpack filled with school supplies and other necessities, Stepp said, but this year, families brought lists of what their child’s specific back-to-school needs and were able to “shop,” filling their backpacks with exactly what their children wanted for the year.

Volunteer Jean Jackson, who runs Becoming You Hypnosis in Beaverton, said she was glad she helped out at the event.

"My business decided that as part of our giving back to our community we would adopt CPAH and another nonprofit that helps children," she said. "We were thrilled to be able to assist with the backpack program, as we believe education and community are so important for children to build a solid foundation to grow healthy lives upon."

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Elementary school student Brooke Collins waits to pick up school supplies at Greenburg Oaks apartments in Tigard. Community Partners for Affordable Housing has been giving away school supplies to children in need for nearly 15 years.

Super shoppers wanted

A backpack seems like a simple thing, but Wilson said they help kids fit in.

“They aren’t standing out in a negative way,” Wilson said.

Each December, the group donates holiday gifts to families in need, and the city’s Rotary clubs donate warm coats to families each winter.

CPAH’s mission is to help struggling families keep their heads above water, Wilson said, and that takes many forms.

“For us, it’s important to have events like this because back-to-school shopping is a big expense for families,” Wilson said. “It’s important that families have stable housing and the basic items needed like backpacks and school supplies, but they might not really have the money to spend on that stuff. This helps them maintain their housing, because in the month of September, they will still be able to pay their rent.”

Wilson said school supplies and a backpack can run families about $50 per child.

“If you have more than one kid, along with school clothes and shoes, that really adds up,” Wilson said.

Families sign up for the program in advance to give CPAH an idea of what supplies it needs to collect.

“We try to have a little bit extra, too,” Wilson said. “There were about 10 kids who came on Monday who hadn’t signed up. They had either forgotten or just moved in.”

The supplies are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis, Wilson said, and families arrived early to ensure their students received the supplies.

“I got here an hour beforehand, and there were already people outside waiting,” Wilson said. “This is something that is important to them, and it’s a really valuable resource for them.”

The backpack giveaway is funded mostly through donations, Wilson said. The city of Tigard held a supply drive, collecting pencils, binders and other items, which they donated to CPAH. Individuals also donated items, as did local businesses, Wilson said.

Wilson said they are always looking for new supplies to give to kids.

“We are looking for super shoppers, the people who can find those great deals,” Wilson said. “There are probably a lot of people interested in getting involved in a project like this, and we want to connect with those people.”

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