ROSS TWP. — Seven-year-old Lucas Barlet gave Ross Elementary School Principal Lori Bednarek a big hug Aug. 18 after he picked out a free Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle book bag for the upcoming school year.
Lucas’ brother, Darrell, 8, and sister, Elizabeth, 12, also browsed through 23 various backpack designs and sizes to find the perfect one for school.
The book bags were part of an anonymous donation Lake-Lehman School District received in July. The donor informed Lake-Lehman school board member Karen Masters of his intention to donate 200 backpacks, at an estimated value of nearly $2,000, to the district.
“We (Lake-Lehman School District) received different amounts of donations in the past,” Bednarek said. “This is the first time this type of volume was donated. We have a very generous community.”
The backpacks were distributed to the district’s three elementary schools.
Lake-Noxen Elementary gave out book bags the week of Aug. 8, Bednarek said. Lehman-Jackson was scheduled to distribute backpacks this week, she said.
Ross Elementary School received 80 backpacks that featured funky stripes and geometric designs, well-known cartoon characters and some that were unique, such as one with a picture of a giant hamburger on it.
Bednarek said elementary school families received a call from the district’s Global Connect phone notification system stating the book bags would be available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Aug. 18 and 19.
She then personally called some of the school’s most financially stressed families to make sure they knew about the backpack availability was on a first-come, first-served basis.
In the first hour and a half on Thursday, 59 book bags were distributed, Bednarek said.
The donation helped many district families save on the expense of back-to-school supplies.
According to a study by the National Retail Federation, parents and caregivers will spend an estimated $235.39 on clothing and accessories, $204.06 on electronics, $126.55 on shoes and $107.76 on school supplies per child to prepare for the school year.
“For some families purchasing a new book bag means they have to go without something else for that week,” Bednarek said.
Lucas’s mother and father, Christina and Rick, appreciated the school supply donation.
“This is awesome that someone in the community did this,” Christina Barlet said. “This will save us about $50 to $60.”
The family of five is currently living off Rick’s Social Security Disability funds.
Christina said three years ago he suffered a stroke when he drove a tractor trailer. The stroke left Rick with several health issues that prohibit him from returning to work and requires Christina to stay home and care for him.
Mildred Boyer and her older sister Melissa will start seventh and eighth grades at the Lake-Lehman Junior/Senior High School. The Boyer family was notified because the girls “came through Ross Elementary,” Bednarek said.
“This was a big help,” Ben Boyer, the girls’ father said. “What they sell backpacks for in the stores is outrageous.”
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.