Rotaract crew, left-right, Lisa Armstrong, Rylee Armstrong, Shannon McLaughlin and Louise McDonald organize supplies that were donated for the Packed Packs Program. Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Sep 10, 2022 at 18:25

By Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

An ambitious group of Good Samaritans were eager to help youth in the community, accomplishing their goals by creating an annual collection drive that is picking up momentum with every passing year.

The Packed Packs Project celebrated its third anniversary this August, with a mission of collecting gently-used or new backpacks for children in need.

“We were hoping to be able to provide school supplies and backpacks to help both teachers and students,” says Peace River Rotaract Club president Rylee Armstrong.

Rotaract president Rylee Armstrong, centre, and Strategic HSE Systems Inc. general manager Angela Lavoie (far right) delivering supplies to the Sagitawa Friendship Society.

“We just want kids to be able to be kids and not worry about being different than their classmates.”

Armstrong says Rotaract Club members recognize that some families are struggling to meet basic needs and their group was hoping to alleviate some of the pressure by rallying the community together to collect school supplies.

The ambitious group were trying to collect 60 backpacks for students in need by Aug. 15, but were able to overachieve, collecting well over 100 backpacks.

Style Ryte Cleaners in Peace River acted as a drop-off spot for people to make their donations for the initiative.

“Each year the community support has been great,” she says. “We have (annually) collected up to 130 backpacks filled with supplies to donate to local schools.”

Jill Cairns from Style Ryte Cleaners in Peace River helped the Rotoract club by providing a drop off spot for the gently-used and new backpacks.

This year, the club was able to donate to all the schools in Peace River (with the exception of École des Quatre-Vents as its students did not require the assistance) and the Sagitawa Friendship Centre.

The schools asked that the supplies donated be kept separate from the backpacks this year, as each grade and child will have different requirements for their studies. This will make it easier for the schools to dole out the appropriate supplies to each child.

“Community members can get involved in our club or any of our events or fundraisers,” says Armstrong.

“Our corporate sponsorship has been really great. People are now reaching out with us even having to call.”

If you were unable to donate to their initiative this year, have no fear, as the group plans on holding its Packed Pack Project again in summer 2023.

Peace River Rotaract Club was initially a spin-off of the local Rotary Club, and president Rylee Armstrong explains the group has been working hard to find ways to make Peace River an even better place to live.

“We are currently a group of 11 people,” says Armstrong.

“We are a young, motivated group looking to do great things in our community.” The Rotaract Club has been involved in many community initiatives, including the Sassy Squash Urban Garden, a community garden located in downtown Peace River.

They’ve also participated in and organized community clean-up groups to ensure the town stays clean and welcoming.

If you would like to join the Rotaract club or help in any of its many initiatives, please phone Rylee at (780) 618-8658, visit the Peace River Rotaract Facebook page or check out its website at www.peacerotaract.com.

This item reprinted with permission from   South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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