Yarmouth student puts others in need on her back

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YARMOUTH — Back-to-school shopping is probably the last thing on students’ minds at the beginning of August.

Not Hannah Dwyer.

She has been thinking of it since school ended in June. But she’s not making a shopping list of school supplies for herself.

Dwyer, 15, never had to worry about walking into school without a backpack or the supplies she’d need to succeed, but she knows there are students less fortunate and she wants to help.

After reading about community outreach projects, such as the BackPack Program in Brunswick, the rising sophomore at Yarmouth High School knew she wanted to do something similar. So she created the Community Backpack Program.

The goal of the program is to provide backpacks filled with school supplies to students, in kindergarten and first grade at William H. Rowe School and in second through fourth grades at Yarmouth Elementary School, whose families need some help. The Community Backpack Program accepts contributions of any size and amount, from pencils, erasers, glue sticks, and backpacks to monetary donations.

With the help and support of friends, family, school counselor Amber Gross, and YHS Assistant Principal Amy Bongard, Dwyer began spreading the word by distributing fliers around town and posting on web and Facebook pages. She also received support from Rowe Principal Susan Lobel and YES Principal Ryan Gleason.

Dwyer held her first supply pickup at YHS July 27 and is planning another on Aug. 14 from 5 to 6 p.m.

According to Dwyer, the first pickup went “OK:” A backpack, about 10 school supplies, and a $20 check were donated.

“I wasn’t really expecting there to be too much because no one has really bought school supplies (for themselves) at this point in the year,” Dwyer said.

She hopes Aug. 14 will bring in many more donations. 

For those unable to make the pickup date, checks can be made out to YHS with “Community Backpack Program” written on the memo line. Dwyer will use the money donated to purchase supplies before school begins. 

“If people have donations and they can’t get to the high school … we’ll go pick them up around town,” Dwyer’s mother, Marjorie Lewis Dwyer, added. 

In two weeks, Dwyer and her friend Avery May, who has been helping with the project, will meet with L.L. Bean Community Relations Manager Janet Wyper. Dwyer hopes that Bean will collaborate by either donating backpacks or reducing prices for some recipients.

She also hopes other businesses, such as Target, Staples, Wal-Mart, and Goodwill will be willing to support the project by donating supplies or keeping a donation box at the front of their store. 

“This is Hannah’s project and (businesses) are excited to hear from her about it,” Lewis Dwyer said.

Families interested in receiving donated supplies are asked to contact Bongard or Gross. The identities of recipients will be kept anonymous.

“It’s kind of hard for people to say ‘I need help,'” Dwyer said. “It’s personal information that (others) may not want to trust in a 15-year-old, which is totally understandable.”

“(Hannah) won’t ever know who is getting (the supplies), which is actually kind of nice for the families,” Lewis Dwyer added. “(Hannah) is doing this to help people in town, but (she won’t) know who the kids are that are benefitting.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Hannah Dwyer, a rising sophomore at Yarmouth High School, collected donations for the Community Backpack Program on July 27. The program’s goal is to provide backpacks filled with school supplies to students and families in need. A second supply drop off will be held Aug. 14 from 5-6 p.m. in the YHS parking lot.