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Backpack Project gets some help from township Target

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:00 p.m.
Norwin Rotary’s backpack project now provides new books for 25 students at Sheridan Terrace Elementary School through a $500 grant from Target. Pictured with the books are, from left, Daniel Baumann, team leader at the North Huntingdon Target; Natalie McCracken, acting assistant superintendent of elementary education; Sheridan Terrace principal Heather Newell; Norwin Rotary president Brenda Kacvinsky; and Terri Klingensmith, team leader at North Huntingdon Target. Submitted photo

Along with nutritional foods, the Norwin Rotary Club's Backpack Project plans to begin sending students at Sheridan Terrace Elementary School home over the weekends with books.

The Norwin School District received a $500 grant from Target, which it plans to use to purchase 200 books to include with the students' weekend food supply.

This fall, the 25 Sheridan Terrace students receiving food through the Backpack Project are receiving a new book each time they take their food home, according to Tracy McNelly, Norwin's assistant superintendent of secondary education.

“Research shows having access to books in the home helps increase literacy among children,” McNelly said. “I thought if we could help by putting books into the backpacks, knowing these students may not be able to afford them on their own.”

Students who receive the books get to keep them, said McNelly, who also is a member of the Rotary.

The Norwin Rotary Club began its backpack project in 2010 by supplying enough food to last a weekend home with elementary students living in poverty. Students receive the backpacks of food every Friday during the school year.

The project requires $350 per student to supply enough food for the entire school year, according to Rotary president Brenda Kacvinsky.

In addition to the 25 students at Sheridan Terrace, the backpack project sends food home with 25 more students across the district's elementary schools.

Before receiving notification of the Target grant, McNelly said, Rotary members planned to begin fundraising to supply the books.

“Everything came together at once, unexpectedly,” McNelly said.

Target's donation came through the store's “Take Charge of Education” program, which dedicates 1 percent of all purchases made with the store's credit card to local schools, according to Terrie Klingensmith, a team leader at the North Huntingdon Target.

“Every time someone uses the card, it goes back to help a school,” Klingensmith said.

According to Target's corporate website, the stores have donated $354 million to educational programs since enacting the program in 1997.

Norwin purchased the books, based on the students' reading levels and ages, from First Book, which sells new books to schools at a discounted rate, McNelly said.

“We send two to three books home with each child per month,” she said. “We were able to use the grant to purchase enough books for the rest of the year for those students.”

Next fall, McNelly said, the Rotary hopes to provide books to all the students in the Backpack Project across the district.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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