Reprinted from The Fallbrook/Bonsall Village News
Fallbrook is a town where many residents find it satisfying to “give back” to the community. Therefore, it’s no surprise that former students of Fallbrook High School have set an impressive standard of helping current day students in need.
Jan Mahr Owen of the Fallbrook Alumni Association summarized why the organization does what it does.
“Once a Warrior, always a Warrior,” said Owen, expanding on why helping today’s students, especially those in need, is important to her.
“I have a tremendous amount of pride in our town; my roots are deep,” she explained. “I got a really good, basic education at Fallbrook High School. It gave me a great start. It is my goal to do as much as I can to help in the way I can to give the students an opportunity to get the education I had and to feel the way I did about my school.”
This is the 13th year that the Fallbrook Alumni Association has purchased backpacks and filled them with critical school supplies for students in financial need at the high school.
Alum Bill Hansen has coordinated the Backpack Buddy program from the beginning,
“I first packed backpacks in my basement for our project in the summer of 2003 for the 2003-04 school year,” said Hansen. “Initially, I packed 25, but when the school said they could use some more, I packed an additional 10.”
Hansen said in the early years, the word went out to alumni to look for sales where as many supplies could be purchased for as little as possible.
“Each year after that we added additional backpacks: 50 plus five (later); 60; and, starting in 2006-07 school year we leveled off at 75,” he said. “I believe it was for the 2013-14 school year that we also packed 20 extras with supplies that someone donated for military families.”
“Our grand total to date is around 800,” said Hansen. “This year we added some items, per the school’s request, including a yellow highlighter, composition book, extra notebook paper (three packages instead of two) and a red spirit-wear t-shirt. We also have given extra supplies when we have them, such as a case of paper, extra pencils/pens, and erasers, etc. Each backpack also contains a protractor and other useful items.”
The red t-shirts were added to help the students engage in school spirit by wearing the Warrior color.
“We want these students to have a red t-shirt so they can wear it on Spirit Fridays,” said Owen.
Hansen said after the first year of preparing backpacks, the alumni association began having backpacking “packing” events in order to improve time efficiency and involve more people.
“The events in 2004 and 2005 were held in homes with about 10 people participating,” said Hansen. “Then we moved to Live Oak Park for our all-alumni picnic starting in 2006 until 2010 where all in attendance helped pack; approx. 60 persons.”
“In 2011 we returned to packing in a home as we changed our picnic date to the fall, which was too late for the backpack project’s timeline (to have them available for the start of the school year),” he said.
While between 10 and 20 alum turn out to lend a hand at the backpack packing events, Hansen said, “There are about five core members who do the leg work – finding funding, purchasing, organizing, and delivering.”
The Fallbrook Alumni Association relies on donations and help from a variety of sources to meet their goal.
“For the past two years, costs have been covered by Neighborhood Reinvestment Program (NRP) grants from the County of San Diego, donations from local members of the community, and other non-profit organizations,” said Hansen. “The Angel Society and Fallbrook Vintage Car Club have been very generous. St. John’s Thrift Store has helped us, as has Major Market.”
“Major Market helped us out in a tremendous way with those red spirit t-shirts this year; they are so generous,” said Owen.
Some other retailers have done things to help as well. “For several years, Walgreen’s gave us a break on backpacks and supplies, which saved us having to run all over hunting down sales at multiple stores. When I was able to get additional funding from the NRP grants, we began using one vendor and upgraded to Jansport backpacks, per the school’s request, starting with the 2013-14 school year.”
On Monday, Aug. 3, the Fallbrook Alumni Association delivered this year’s 75 new backpacks to the school.
“We work with the counseling center and the parenting center,” said Owen. “The backpacks go to any student who is in need. The need can be communicated by the student, a parent, teacher, or staff member.”
“The staff has been very appreciative of our effort,” said Owen. “Our town of Fallbrook is very generous in giving us donations towards the backpack project.”