NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The crowd lined up at the door to the former Sleepy's couldn't wait to get inside and start picking out — school supplies.
Thursday was the fourth year of the Backpacked to Success back to school program hosted by The Family Place and Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.
Some 275 backpacks in a rainbow of colors were ready for pick up and to be filled with an assortment of pens, pencils, erasers, notebook, folders and a plethora of other school needs.
"It's a really nice way to start the school year off," said Brayton Elementary Principal John Franzoni, who was volunteering at a table piled high with secondhand children's books. "They do a great job supporting the families and we really appreciate that ... our families really need that."
Jenn McCue said was there to help three of her four children get the supplies they needed to start school.
"The kids can pick out what they want and it's helpful because I'm a single mom with four and I don't have a lot of money," she said. Her children were excited to be able select their own backpacks and fill them with supplies.
The back-to-school program is open to any family in North Berkshire, but they had to register for the program by last Friday to ensure there would be enough supplies to go around.
This is the largest number of backpacks given out so far, said Amber Besaw, NBCC's executive directer.
The most we've done is 200 to 225," she said. "The staff of The Family Place did a good job of letting families know about it and we were able to do more. ...
"We want to give the kids the experience of shopping and being able to pick out what to put in their backpacks and give them free books and get them all set up for the school year."
Families entered the space, which currently hosts Game On, a free family gathering area with analog games and toys, to sign in, select a backpack and then peruse the tables set up with just about every school supply in every bright color imaginable.
Volunteers were on hand to help out. There were some other school representatives, including interim Hoosac Valley Middle School Principal Christopher Sposato, local high school students chipping in, and community members.
"We try to make it as fun as possible," Besaw said. "I know kids aren't exactly excited to go back to school if we can get them a little bit of fun to get them ready to go, then that's a bonus."
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