Community of Friends Backpack Drive
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Community of Friends Backpack Drive

How one OAT associate helped 525 needy students get the tools they need to succeed

Kids with backpacks"We are your neighbors, your friends and your co-workers. We believe that charity begins at the home and that we have an obligation to help those among us who—through circumstances beyond their control—find themselves in a difficult place." So reads the mission statement of Community of Friends, a volunteer-based charitable organization in Marblehead, Massachusetts, co-founded by 10-year OAT associate Kathy Wilder and her husband, John. Together, the couple organizes events that motivate neighbors and families to give back to the place they call home.

"The principles of the charity are based on what I learned from Grand Circle Foundation," says Kathy. "If you run events that are fun and easy, people will step up to help the community." One such event is Community of Friends' annual backpack and school supply drive, now in its fifth year. "For families who are struggling to put food on the table, back-to-school time—which should be an exciting time—is a stressful time," says Kathy. "They can't afford to equip their children with the proper school supplies. Starting the school year without the proper learning tools has a negative impact on a child's self-esteem and starts them off on the wrong foot at school."

That's where Community of Friends steps in. When sponsors sign up for the program, they receiveBackpack
school supply shopping lists based on the age of a particular student. Each sponsor shops for one child, places the supplies in a backpack, and drops it off with Community of Friends. "Many OAT associates particularly love this event," says Kathy, "because they feel the gratification of having a direct impact on a specific child." 

Families, tos accepting backpackso, enjoy shopping and filling backpacks together. "I love seeing a proud young child hand us their donations and tell us about all the things they bought for another child," says Kathy. "These kids will grow up with community service instilled as part of their lives." As the new parents of a three-month-old daughter named Erin, Kathy and John will soon be instilling these values in their own family.

In 2008, Community of Friends filled backpacks for 503 children. In 2009, they increased their goal to fill 525 backpacks to benefit children through several organizations—an impressive increase given the state of the economy. That's 525 students who will have a head start on a confident, successful school year thanks to Kathy and John Wilder. OAT is proud to support their efforts.