Franklin Regional, Butler, Mt. Lebanon receive grants to help needy families |

Franklin Regional, Butler, Mt. Lebanon receive grants to help needy families

Patrick Varine

Three school districts in Southwestern Pennsylvania, including Franklin Regional in Westmoreland County, each will receive $2,500 to help local families with needs like clothing, medical and dental care, eyeglasses and prescriptions along with food, shelter and related supplies.

The American Association of School Administrators, or AASA, announced the Murrysville school district along with Butler Area and Mt. Lebanon are recipients of the 2020 Helping Kids Mini-Grants, funded through a partnership with Minnesota-based Sourcewell, which helps local governments, schools and nonprofits leverage buying power.

At Franklin Regional, the money will be used for the Backpacks to Go program, which twice a month discreetly supplies enrolled students with backpacks filled with easy-to-prepare meals and snacks for weekends.

Backpacks to Go program facilitators Meg Keim and Lisa Pint couldn’t think of better news to receive a few days before Thanksgiving.

“What a wonderful time to have something like this happen,” Pint said.

The backpacks program was developed in 2010 in response to an ongoing need by some students for nutritious food on weekends, when they do not have access to the district’s breakfast and lunch programs.

“Our district kind of falls in a gap where we don’t meet the criteria — through free and reduced meal numbers — to qualify for help from other places,” Keim said. “We have backpacks going to kids in all our schools. We have approximately 65 backpacks distributed every two weeks.”

The program expanded first to Franklin Regional Middle School, then to the high school in early 2018.

There are no financial requirements to enroll. While Keim and Pint did not want to speculate about how the grant will be used, they are excited for the program’s future.

“I know they’re setting aside a space for us to do the program in the new (Sloan campus) building,” Keim said. “It’s just amazing.”

AASA and Sourcewell have partnered on the grants since 2012.

“The mini-grant program is a way for AASA and Sourcewell to make a positive impact on students, families and their communities,” said Chad Coauette, Sourcewell CEO and executive director. “We are very pleased to be part of this long-term, difference-making partnership and are thankful to be able to play a small part in helping to establish some normalcy and stability for the awardees.”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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