Wednesday 19 December 2018
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United Way of the Lowcountry Women United is gearing up for Operation Backpack to provide local children in need with school supplies to start school.

     While children throughout the Lowcountry just got out of school for summer break, it won’t be long until they will be preparing for another school year and heading back to the classroom. Although many children would love for summer to last forever, there’s excitement in going school shopping, getting a new backpack and picking out school supplies.

     Unfortunately, there are many children here in the Lowcountry who will go to school empty handed on that first day because families simply can’t afford the extra cost of purchasing school supplies and uniforms.  That’s why United Way of the Lowcountry Women United started Operation Backpack, which works to help fill the gaps by providing backpacks full of school supplies and uniform shirts to children in need before each school year.   “We all know purchasing school supplies can be costly and there are many families in our community who are struggling just to make ends meet,” says Tina Gentry, United Way of the Lowcountry President & CEO. “We want to help ensure that as many children as possible, regardless of their financial situations, walk into school on that first day with the supplies they need to reach their full potential.”

     Women United has continued to expand the program each year to help meet the need.  Katie Phifer, Women United Steering Committee Chair, says, “We want to break any barrier that would prevent a student from succeeding in school so when we learned that many of our students were starting the school year without the supplies they desperately needed, Operation Backpack was born.”  Last school year, the initiative provided more than 600 backpacks to students at eight schools throughout Beaufort and Jasper Counties.  This upcoming school year, Operation Backpack is again expanding to help more students. “This initiative has continued to grow each year and we are grateful for the community’s support,” says Phifer.  “We’ve had communities, businesses, individuals and other non-profit groups step up and truly deliver in order to help our children.”

     Women United works with school social workers to identify the students who would benefit the most from the program and who are not being served by other agencies.  Women United volunteers help pack each of the backpacks with school supplies and two uniform shirts. The backpacks are then delivered to the schools prior to the start of school so the students have what they need on their first day.  “Once the collection process is finalized, we organize our volunteers at United Way to help sort all the materials.  We set up an assembly line and pack each of the backpacks, school by school,” says Alison Barton, Women United Steering Committee member and United Way of the Lowcountry Board Member. “By working with the schools directly, each backpack is grade appropriate in terms of the needed materials, and contains the proper uniform shirt size for the child.”

How can you get involved?

     Women United will start collecting school supplies and monetary donations June 4th through August 1st. Drop-off locations will be located throughout Beaufort and Jasper Counties including the United Way of the Lowcountry offices.

United Way of the Lowcountry Offices:

Beaufort – 1277 Ribaut Road

Bluffton – 10 Buckingham Plantation Drive, Suite D

     For more drop-off locations, visit

     Women United is collecting monetary donations to purchase the actual backpacks and some of the school supply items in bulk as well as all the school uniform shirts.

     The list of donated items include the following:  yellow highlighters, index cards, pocket folders (2 pockets), glue sticks, #2 pencils (12 count), crayons (24 count), Crayola washable markers, composition notebooks (marble), filler paper, ruler (12 inch/clear if possible), zipper-seal quart and gallon bags, box of facial tissue, wet wipes, hand sanitizer (4 oz bottle), rolls of paper towels.

     Additionally, gift cards to Walmart will also be accepted as well as monetary donations. Donations can be made online at  Checks can be made out to “United Way of the Lowcountry” with Operation Backpack in the memo line and should be mailed to United Way of the Lowcountry, P.O. Box 202, Beaufort, SC 29901.

     For more information about Operation Backpack, contact Jaime Dailey-Vergara at the United Way of the Lowcountry (843) 982-3040.