Seniors pack backpacks

By JOANNE FOX

joannef@scdiocese.org

A group of senior citizens spent Aug. 9 preparing back-to-school supplies for backpacks.

Not for themselves, mind you; but rather for families who might not have the resources to afford getting students off to a good start for school.

Residents of The Heritage at Northern Hills Assisted Living in Sioux City and other volunteers packed donated pencils, notebooks and other supplies into 300 backpacks. The event was coordinated by the Hinton, Iowa-based nonprofit group Lucky Leprechauns.

Backpacks will go to students in Siouxland schools, including Sacred Heart Grade School in Sioux City.

According to Kelly Nashleanas of Lucky Leprechauns, students getting the backpacks were selected by school officials.

“This wasn’t just random backpack packing,” she said. “Each backpack will go to a boy or girl who has need in a specific grade.”

Bob Kull represented Premier BankCard, one of the corporate sponsors, and was helping assemble backpacks, too.

“I decided to help out because I thought it was important to bring kids together with the seniors here at The Heritage,” said the parishioner at St. Teresa of Calcutta in Dakota Dunes, S.D. “It’s certainly important to give them a good start in school, because farther on down the road, it might be the push they need to help someone else out.”

Betty Ramm of Sioux City, who self-identified as “a retired lady,” wanted to help gather the supplies to help the students, as well.

“It makes me feel good to help out this way,” the Holy Cross parishioner said. “I honestly could not think of a reason why I shouldn’t help out with this project.”

As they sat at tables designated with a particular grade in school, a number of the residents chatted about their own school experiences and conversed with the volunteers who were assembling the backpacks.

Christy Nikkel, executive director at The Heritage at Northern Hills Assisted Living, acknowledged how much joy the residents received from participating in the assembling.

“Most residents indicated they wanted to help out,” she said. “They love to help the children and they like the excitement a project like this brings. It’s clear they want to be a part of it.”

Nashleanas, who also serves Northern Hills as a health and wellness coach, echoed those sentiments.

“The students and other volunteers bring a vitality to the project,” she said. “The seniors find purpose in helping kids.”

This is the 11th year for the project, which had previously won a national award, Nashleanas pointed out.

“I recall we started with just 50 children in need,” she said. “This year, we discovered Sacred Heart alone had 97 students at risk, so we will be coordinating a coat, book and toy drive for them in the future.”

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