Annual back-to-school backpack giveaway won’t reach as many students because of COVID-19 concerns

Annual back-to-school backpack giveaway won’t reach as many students because of COVID-19 concerns

AIKEN, S.C. (WIS) - This is the time of year that we usually begin to hear about various back-to-school drives ahead of the new school year.

One nonprofit out of Aiken, focused on education and youth development, sadly won’t be able to reach as many students as it has in previous years because of restrictions in place due to COVID-19.

SuccessTeam has been active for the last five years, reaching students throughout South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. The goal is to help these students with education, enhancement and exposure. This is done through a number of different SuccessTeam programs including its Big Brother mentorship and college tours for high schoolers.

It also provides an annual academic scholarship awarded to a select number of students who submit a written essay, have at least a 3.0 GPA, participate in extracurricular activities and take part in community service.

One of the nonprofit’s most successful events is its yearly back-to-school supplies drive where there have been as many as 1,000 backpacks given away in the past, SuccessTeam founder Tim Behiling said.

This year, that giveaway and many of the group’s programs are undergoing some changes in response to the pandemic. Changes brought on by COVID-19 are also behind a new SuccessTeam program specifically targeting college students.

“If they’re able to actually report back on campus, we want to assist in that adjustment by building care packages and shipping them to them that include disinfectant spray, dish detergent, laundry detergent, wash cloths, towels. Any of those day-to-day necessities that will decrease the amount of risk that they have to take on a day-to-day basis to help adjust them back to a new college life,” Behling said.

Through that new Adopt a College Student program, students were able to apply and submit a wish list of items they need. Those care packages are set to be delivered this week, but SuccessTeam was only able to help about half of those who reached out.

The same could be true for the revised book bag giveaway set to happen early next month.

Behling told WIS it’s important to provide students with the resources and tools they need to be successful. That way, students don’t have to worry about what they don’t have and can focus on their grades. This is made possible through donations of school supplies, monetary donations and organized funding.

Behling says they always look to help as many students as possible, but coronavirus safety measures are making that a bit more challenging this year.

In order to keep the public safe, they’re having to scale back on this year’s back-to-school drive. It typically brings hundreds of students to a central location where they receive a backpack and essentially shop for the supplies they need.

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This year, the book bags will be packed in advance and delivered, but SuccessTeam is unlikely to reach as many students as in years past.

“What we’re going to do is we’re going to shrink the amount of backpacks that we actually supply, shrink the target market from K-12 to actually sixth through 12th,” said Behling, who believes the mandatory needs of older students outweigh the needs of younger students.

He added: “Whenever our community is in a fire, they look for nonprofits to be there and relieve them of that stress. But due to the economy being in such an unknown area, a gray area, we’re not able to be as effective as we normally are.”

The founder also says that for-profit businesses aren’t the only ones hurting in this economy. Behling says, often times, nonprofits rely on the success of local businesses to form important financial partnerships.

Right now, SuccessTeam is aiming for August 8 to deliver this year’s backpacks.

For more information on how you can support the SuccessTeam efforts, click or tap here.

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