Keough is a resident of Dunfield Park and for the past five or six years took part in the Dunfield Park Community Centre’s back-to-school backpack program.
Through support from local businesses and the public the centre collects and purchases backpacks and other school supplies for children in need.
Right now the centre is looking at providing backpacks for 247 children in and around the city, in Deer Lake and on the Northern Peninsula. And the service is not limited to tenants of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing.
Keough said her family got involved with the program out of need.
“It was me, and my husband and two kids and we were just living off social services and the very little amount of money we had, that was what we depended on,” she said.
Without the program, Keough said her family would have coped, but it would have been at a cost.
“We would have done without. We would have cut down on certain things we would have needed, but we would have gotten through.”
Would have suffered
Overall, she said it would have been her kids who would have suffered if the program wasn’t there. They would be the ones missing out either by not having a backpack and the necessary supplies or being affected by their parents cutting back on things at home.
Aimee Randell, poverty reduction facilitator with the centre, said it’s one of the most expensive times of the year.
“People are taking money that they put aside for other things and using it for backpacks,” she said.
“They’re going without things that they need, the necessities in order to provide backpacks.
“The big thing too with kids in school I find is if they don’t have the same supplies, the same backpacks as everybody else has, that they’re set up for bullying and being teased.”
“At least with this backpack program they have the same backpacks as everybody else. They’re no different. They walk through the school just the same as everybody else.”
Keough and her husband are both working now, so this year their children won’t need to sign up for the program that the family has appreciated so much.
Randell said this appreciation the program receives from the public can been seen when children receive their backpacks.
“The looks on their faces is unbelievable,” she said. “And it’s worth all the long hours of packing backpacks and trying to get enough supplies.”
Right now the backpacks are a bit short on school supplies for junior high students.
She said the centre is in need of scientific calculators, math sets and backpacks. To donate contact the centre at 634-4077.