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updated: 7/23/2013 4:30 PM

ECC collecting school supplies for area students

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Last year the line formed at 3 a.m. for Elgin Community College's school supply giveaway. The event -- Project Backpack -- officially started at 10 a.m. and by then about 4,000 people were waiting for the chance at backpacks filled with school supplies for their children.

Katie Storey, ECC's student life coordinator, has led the organizing team since Project Backpack started four years ago. Every year they have collected more supplies than ever but there continues to be a greater need than they can fulfill.

"It's very bittersweet for us," Storey said. While organizers were glad to be able to distribute more than 2,200 backpacks last year, Storey said the event makes very clear how many families in the community need the help.

Storey and her team are making a final push for donations before an Aug. 1 deadline that will give them time to take stock of the supplies collected before the actual event, which is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 10 at ECC's Spartan Events Center, 1700 Spartan Drive in Elgin.

Sought after items are folders, notebooks, paper, pencils, pens, scissors, glue, rulers, crayons and backpacks -- all should be gender neutral. And Storey said they'll go to students of all ages, from preschool to high school and even college.

"Any donation, whether it be just a package of pencils or a backpack -- anything will just go such a long way," Storey said. "Those donations are so appreciated."

A host of organizations have donation boxes in place for people to drop off supplies during the last week of collection. And Community Unit District 300 will hold its annual Stuff the Bus event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 27 in the Walmart parking lot at 1410 S. Randall Road in Algonquin. Supplies collected during the drive will go toward Project Backpack, of which District 300 students are beneficiaries.

Students in Bartlett, Burlington, East Dundee, Elgin, Gilberts, Hampshire, Lily Lake, Pingree Grove, Plato Center, Sleepy Hollow, South Elgin, St. Charles, Streamwood, Wasco, Wayne, West Dundee and parts of Algonquin, Campton Hills, Carpentersville, Hanover Park and Lake in the Hills are all eligible for the free supplies at ECC's event.

Besides the school items, Project Backpack organizers also are looking for volunteers to sort and pack the supplies Aug. 8 and 9 as well as businesses and organizations to be part of a resource fair. Representatives from local businesses and nonprofits will be available during the Project Backpack event to connect families with resources they and their children will need to get the school year off to a good start.

Even if backpacks run out, families will still have access to the fair.

Students don't have to be at the event for their parents to get a backpack for them. But parents must provide proof of residency in ECC's community college district or proof of school enrollment like a registration or report card to take advantage of the service.

All backpacks are first come, first served. Storey said organizers will let people in line know how many backpacks are left as the day progresses.

For details, visit project-backpack.org.

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