Annual backpack giveaway held in Fort Myers

The 21st Annual Big Backpack Event hosted by The Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida was held Sunday in Fort Myers, and organizers said the event was needed this year more than ever.

Cars with parents and their kids lined up at the Skatium to receive a backpack full of school supplies, and new this year, families were also able to receive food.

The yearly event is organized by The Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida, and it added two new partners this year, gaining help from Community Cooperative Ministries Inc. (CCMI) and Blessings in a Backpack of Southwest Florida.

They provided backpacks, school supplies, and food to Lee County children. Each family that came through the carline to receive free backpacks for their children ages 5 to 12 also received a grocery bag full of kid-friendly food such as peanut butter, jelly, Pop-Tarts, a box of oatmeal packets, macaroni and cheese, tuna, SpaghettiOs, pasta and spaghetti sauce.

Blessings in a Backpack of Southwest Florida stepped up to donate a pallet of school supplies for 1,500 of the 2,000 students being served.

“Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida feels fortunate to work with these incredible local organizations that share our same goal of serving families and children in need,” said Leonardo Garcia, executive director of the Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida.

Since early March, the coronavirus pandemic has created monumental hardships on families making the cost of back-to-school supplies and food an overwhelming burden. Event organizers with The Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida were determined to move forward with this event and are grateful for the partnership with CCMI and Blessings in a Backpack of Southwest Florida.

“The thought of having to cancel The Big Backpack Event at a time when unemployment is high and families are in crisis weighed heavily on our hearts,” said event public relations and marketing chair Connie Ramos-Williams, president of CONRIC PR & Marketing. “We are excited to collaborate with the City of Fort Myers, business sponsors and other nonprofits to make this curbside back-to-school celebration and giveaway a reality.”

Tim Oak, SWFL regional president for Neal Communities, the presenting sponsor of the event, praised organizers for their efforts. “What you are doing has always been needed and this year even more so,” Oak said. “Thank you for helping the children in our community.

Nearly 40,000 backpacks have been distributed to families over the event’s 20-year history. An estimated 80 percent of Lee County children currently qualify for free or reduced meal programs at their schools and that was prior to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Sydney Persing
Writer:Drew Hill
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