It all started nine years ago, when Lynda Hall's kids asked for new backpacks.
"Their backpacks were still good," Hall said. "But my kids said 'Mom can't we just donate our backpacks to the homeless center like we do our clothes?'"
Hall couldn't think of a good enough reason to say no, in fact, she rather liked the idea. So they went shopping, filled up her kids’ used-but-perfectly-okay backpacks and dropped them off at Santa Cruz Homeless Shelter, where she says the lady working was really appreciative.
When Hall's friends heard about it they asked her to let them in on it next year. Her friends ended up being busy but donated money instead to help fill the used and new backpacks to the brim with useful school supplies.
By the third year Lynda and Kidz Backpack Project had grown to 25 packs and had added the Rebele Family Shelter (a shelter for families in transition and part of the Santa Cruz Homeless Shelter) and Walnut Women's Shelter to its list.
Last year, they added the Elm Street Mission, which connected the backpacks to under-privileged kids of the Beach Flats community in Santa Cruz, for a total of 212 backpacks. At least 100 of those went to the Rebele Shelter, and 50 or 60 went to the Women's Shelter where they are kept on-hand for mothers and women who come in seeking help.
"Every year it just keeps growing. This year I'm going to include a little card that says if you have a need for a school supply and it’s not included, to email me with their name, address and what they need and if I can swing it I'm going to grab it and drop it off," Hall said.
Now in her ninth year, Hall is gearing up for a bigger year than ever, and is now accepting donations through July 31.
Donations of backpacks, stationary and money can be mailed directly to Hall, (check out her contact information on her website), and monetary donations can also be made online. Each backpack cost $35 to fill.
Once all of the backpacks are collected, Hall goes to Target, where you can find her counting out hundreds of glue sticks, pencils, and much, much more.
"My youngest son (19 years old) who still lives with me comes shopping, we'll go to Target and literally count out 212 glue sticks, and 212 theme books. It's exhausting, but it's really nice that my company gives me five volunteer days each year," said Hall who works for NetApp.
Hall says that if it wasn't for the help of her kids and the enormous generosity of her friends (like her friend Glenn who sends her 30 backpacks each year), this project wouldn't have survived and grown so much over the years.
"Everyone just falls in love with this project because it's for the kids. Especially for those kids who are actually homeless and they're trying to stay in school, that's really who we started it for," Hall said.
Check out Lynda and Kidz Backpack Project's Facebook Page and stay informed about important dates, like her donation accepting day at Skypark and the day she'll be personally delivering filled backpacks to kids in the beach flats.
You can also email Lynda and Kidz Backpack Project at: firstname.lastname@example.org.