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Group gives backpacks to homeless kids again


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POSTED: Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Corinda Wong has worked on the Backpack to School project for the past eight years just to see the look on kids' faces.

“;It's fun to watch the kids light up with the excitement of having the things they need to start school,”; said Wong, a board member of the Locations Foundation. The nonprofit entity of Prudential Locations realty company is donating more than 700 backpacks stuffed with school supplies to needy kids for the eighth year.

“;Our focus is to help children get a good start for the new (school) year,”; said Wong, who distributed 40 backpacks to school-age homeless children at the Weinberg Village in Waimanalo.

Charnay Kalama, a case manager at Weinberg Village, watched the kids opening their backpacks and said, “;They love it, especially the little kids.”;

Even though the backpacks are almost as large as some youngsters, “;It makes them feel like, 'I'm a big kid, too!' They wear it around for a little bit. They say, 'I'm going to school, auntie!' They say that all the time.”;

Wong and Mary Scott-Lau, director of Women in Need, a nonprofit spouse abuse shelter, came up with the idea for the Backpack to School project because kids at the shelter “;show up with absolutely nothing,”; Wong said. They also saw the same need at homeless and transitional shelters where “;kids were carrying their school supplies in rubbish or grocery bags,”; she said.

The foundation donates the backpacks, and the community pitches in for the school supplies. With the economic crisis this year, “;I thought the community wasn't going to come out, but I was really impressed. We got as much as we did last year,”; Wong said.

Backpacks were also distributed to Women in Need, Family Promise, Institute for Human Services, Vancouver House, Loilani Hale, Next Step Shelter, Kahale a ke Ola Homeless Resource Center on Maui, Ohana Ola Transitional Housing, Waianae Civic Center Shelter (U.S. Veterans Transitional Housing) and the One Malu Windward Spouse Abuse Shelter.