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Citizens Bank Begins Ninth Annual Gear for Grades

Volunteers pitched in to pack 6,000 backpacks with school supplies for students.

More than 125 volunteers packed school supplies into 6,000 backpacks for students in need of back-to-school gear Tuesday night at a Cranston warehouse.

Many of the backpacks, prepared by industrious volunteers at Coast to Coast Promotional Products' warehouse, 29 Lark Industrial Parkway, Cranston, will be delivered to Woonsocket schools at the start of school, part of the Gear for Grades program. The program started nine years ago, according to Ned Handy, President of Citizens Bank, Rhode Island. The volunteers worked from 5 to 8 p.m.

From the very beginning Coast to Coast Promotional Products, Recycling for Rhode Island Education, the YMCA and Connecting Children and Families in Woonsocket, have cooperated to make this fundraiser happen.

Handy said, "We want to help kids who would otherwise start school unprepared. The average cost of supplies per child is approximately $603. We hope to make a difference to these families and are very pleased that it has spread across the Citizens Bank footprint."

The one behind the event is Kathy O'Donnell, who organized it in 2003.  "I had seen an increase in requests for backpacks and school supplies. The kids don't have that excitement that I had when I was a kid. We are happy that we are able to do for so many," O'Donnell said.

Ashley Gingerella, a public affairs specialist with Citizens Bank, has worked on this program for five years. Gingerella said, "Citizens Bank is the type of company that really believes in its local community. We don't just write a check, we actually make it happen."

Between packing up those backpacks, listening to music provided by WPRO-FM, who also had lots of prizes, pizza and soda for all, it was a perfect night to give back to our community, she said.

"Citizens Bank makes it happen," Gingerella added. 

Michelle Higgins August 18, 2011 at 02:09 PM
I have two questions: Will there be a back to school event as in past years or will the items be distributed directly to the schools? Will all students be getting a backpack? Thanks Michelle
Erin B. August 18, 2011 at 04:11 PM
This is just an assumption but given that there are roughly 6,000 students in the entire Woonsocket district, I would venture to say that all youth will be offered one.
Michelle Higgins August 18, 2011 at 04:36 PM
For the most part I assumed the same, I was just hoping to get more details. In the past there have been back to school events held here in the city where the back packs would be distributed.
Jason D August 18, 2011 at 07:03 PM
Are they distributed to the private schools also like MSG and Good Sheppard?
Michelle Higgins August 18, 2011 at 07:10 PM
Jason I did some research and they are for ALL students in Rhode Island, an informational article will post soon.
Lynne Beaudry August 18, 2011 at 08:46 PM
There is a back to school event this Sat Aug 20th at 10 AM at St. James Church. They are giving away school supply filled backpacks to children who attend. I received this info through the PAC (Paren Advisory Council) I don't know if this event was advertised through the local papers.
Michelle Higgins August 18, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Thanks for that information Lynn, we will see you there.
Amy Nachbar August 18, 2011 at 10:17 PM
That's wonderful! Thank you ladies for posting! And thank you for reading PATCH.COM! Amy Nachbar
Melissa fitzpatrick July 31, 2012 at 12:16 AM
Is there a place were u can pick up backpacks in cranston ri. Fitzpatrickmissy@yahoo.com please let me know

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