2018-09-01 / News

Backpack charity knows no bounds

By Bill Pekarski
Endeavor News


These were among the volunteers who gathered for a group photo after a busy work session in support of To Fill a Backpack in Roulette. The organization’s service area has grown to include six counties since its modest launch in 2002. These were among the volunteers who gathered for a group photo after a busy work session in support of To Fill a Backpack in Roulette. The organization’s service area has grown to include six counties since its modest launch in 2002. Another busy season came and went for To Fill a Backpack, a one-of-a-kind charitable organization that has provided school supplies to needy students in the region for 17 years.

About 20 volunteers gathered at the Roulette Firehall to pack and distribute more than 500 backpacks in time for the new school year.

“We all feel a real sense of accomplishment,” said the organization’s co-founder and most active promoter, Andy Kulp. “Over the years, to save money most school districts have cut back on the supplies they provide to students. Everyone with school-age children knows the expense involved.”

Kulp, along with his right-hand helper Dawn Blackman Mahon, estimate the value of each backpack with supplies at about $40.

“Many families have multiple kids going back to school and the expenses can really add up fast,” said Dawn. “That is what really makes what we do so important.”

To Fill a Backpack is a completely volunteer program that conducts multiple fundraisers throughout the year and also relies on donations. This year, JKLM provided 140 filled backpacks to help the mission.

“We never turn down anyone who requests a backpack,” advised Kulp. “This year we are providing them to children in six counties -- Potter, Cameron, McKean, Bradford, Tioga, and Lycoming. It is more than just providing backpacks to start the school year. We supply them year- round as they are needed by foster families, people moving into the area, and in case of emergencies and hardships.”

There are no income requirements. Kulp, who started the program with Jackie Culver in 2002, said To Fill a Backpack instead uses the honor system.

The organization has given out more than 7,500 backpacks. The project peaked in 2013, when volunteers handed out 1,241 packs in 35 communities.

To Fill a Backpack was forced to eliminate deliveries as its coverage area grew and both finances and the number of volunteers dwindled. But that’s the only concession Kulp and his team have made as they quietly go about their community service.

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