Grey-Bruce backpack program reaches ‘concerning milestone’

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The United Way of Bruce-Grey’s backpack program has achieved a “concerning milestone” after it set a record for the most backpacks distributed in a year, and the number is expected to continue to keep climbing.

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As of Aug. 31, the United Way program had distributed 2,377 backpacks throughout Grey and Bruce counties, surpassing the program’s previous annual high from last year, when 2,361 backpacks were handed out. Since the program launched in 2005, more than 25,000 backpacks have been provided to those in need.

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“We are greatly concerned to have exceeded last year’s record for backpack distribution,” United Way of Bruce-Grey Executive Director Francesca Dobbyn said in a news release. “While this accomplishment reflects the unwavering dedication of the tremendous support from the community we have received, we are concerned with the increased number of backpacks distributed this year.

“These numbers highlight the critical need for our program and reinforces our commitment to empowering local students.”

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Organizers are concerned about meeting the need in 2024 if donations aren’t received to cover the unanticipated increase in costs to meet the need. It was expected that $85,000 would be required to cover the program in 2023.

And it is still not yet known what the final tally will be with backpacks generally continuing to go out throughout September once the school year starts.

The program has been providing essential school supplies and backpacks to children and youth in the community for 19 years now. The United Way works with over 40 agencies across Grey-Bruce, including food banks, community groups and social services, who take requests for backpacks and assist in their distribution.

By providing students with the necessary tools to success, the program helps to create a level playing field for children, regardless of their background or financial situation, the release said.

Those still in need of a backpack are asked to call the United Way office at 519-376-1560 to access the program as soon as possible. Distribution outside of Owen Sound is wrapping up, but pick-up at the Owen Sound office is always available, the release said.

Those interested in making a donation to the program can do so at or by calling 519-376-1560.

Author: Jordan Ross