SALT LAKE CITY — Restocking school supplies in the middle of the year is common for elementary school teacher Michelle Tapia.
She often uses her own money to make sure her class of sixth-graders have enough supplies. The donations given to her Title I school usually run out near the end of the second term.
But on Friday, all the students at Jackson Elementary School in Salt Lake City received free backpacks stocked with core school supplies.
"I think it’s an awesome gesture," Tapia said. "This is super nice, especially because it’s the holidays."
The backpacks were distributed by local volunteers with Primary Residential Mortgage Inc. The mortgage company partnered with the Kids In Need Foundation to raise money and fill the backpacks with supplies for Title I schools.
A dozen local volunteers visited each classroom to hand out more than 440 backpacks, giving the kids a choice between blue-, orange-, red- or green-accented bags.
Sixth-grader Mariah Renteria carefully lined her desk with all the supplies in her backpack, including notebooks, folders, pencils, crayons, rulers and sticky notes.
"I like the colors, and I like the colored notebooks they have," she said. "I like the sticky notes because I can stick it on the wall for my mom."
The lending company also visited Rose Park Elementary School in Salt Lake City, delivering another 400 backpacks to students after class.
Principal Nicole O'Brien said she was grateful for the volunteers' enthusiasm to distribute the backpacks.
"It couldn't have gone better," she said. "The kids were delighted, it was well-organized, and they were prepared."
The volunteers set up tables and called down classes one at a time to receive backpacks. As the students walked home or were picked up by parents, each one was proudly sporting a bag with the color of their choice.
"I thought it was great, now they'll have this for the break if they have homework," O'Brien added.
Many families can buy school supplies at the beginning of the year but can't afford to restock after the holidays, said Kandice Davis, a public relations specialist with the mortgage company.
When she and other volunteers visited the kindergarten classrooms at Jackson Elementary, the students squealed and shouted in excitement after receiving their bags.
"It really is like Christmas morning," Davis said. "The reactions on their faces are just priceless."
Primary Residential Mortgage has given away hundreds of backpacks to low-income schools across the nation over the past week, she added, from schools in Hawaii to Ohio to Arizona.1 comment on this story
"A lot of the principals and teachers we’ve been talking to say this is the perfect time for us to be donating and delivering these because they do need to be replenished," Davis said.
Jackson Elementary School Principal Jana Edward said the students were anxiously waiting for the backpacks since the beginning of the week.
"(School) breaks can be challenging for all families," she said. "This is a huge benefit. We’re really busy, and to have somebody else start something and follow through with it and get it done so expediently is amazing."