Hands to Help distributes school supplies to hundreds of children

Nearly 400 school children received back-to-school supplies thanks to Merrimack College's Hands to Help/Manos Para Ayuda neighborhood resource center working with St. Mary of the Assumption Church's St. Vincent de Paul Society in Lawrence, Mass. Aug. 4.

The cost of school supplies can cripple an economically insecure family’s budget so the free supplies are helping ease potential suffering, said Hands to Help Director Alisha Reppucci ’12, the college director of community outreach.

Hands to Help ran a back-to-school drive on campus collecting supplies and funding from faculty, staff and students to raise much of the necessary materials. The school supplies giveaway goes with the college’s goal of helping those who need help and is in keeping with St. Augustine’s edict to help the poor, said Assistant Director Rosana Urbaez.

“When I was younger I was one of these kids who needed help, so it’s personal,” Urbaez said. “The community really needs it, it needs the help.”

Reppucci initially estimated there would be about 200 children who needed school supplies so she was surprised when the demand nearly doubled her projection.

The cost of school supplies also surprised Reppucci. She learned that markers can cost $4 so if there are a few children in a family that can add up quickly.

“If you have a lot of kids, that’s expensive,” she said.

Parents appeared anxious to get the supplies, said Chanel Vachon, of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. When the society gives away Thanksgiving dinner baskets, people arrive throughout the day but on Aug. 4 there was a line down the sidewalk before the doors opened.

“We’ve all needed help growing up so it’s great to give them a hand,” Vachon said. “School supplies; whoever thought of that, I think is brilliant.”

Reppucci, Urbaez and student worker Arianny Rodriguez ’18, of Lawrence, who is majoring in biology with a chemistry minor, used the chance to tell parents and students about the Hands to Help after-school tutoring program and evening basketball at the parochial school across the street.


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