For the first time in two years, I was once again able to contribute to the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation’s annual Tools for School Success Backpack Drive. I was a bit rusty on ordering supplies in bulk and keeping track of what items were needed, to say the least. I am heading to Nebraska for a wedding in August and the opportunity to see my family in-person for the first time since December 2019, so the pace was faster than normal.

To avoid any conflicts, I agreed to a compressed schedule to deliver 60 backpacks filled with supplies for elementary, middle, and high school students in less than three weeks. I am fortunate to have good friends – Paula, Eric, and their daughter, Sophie, who generously offered their time, hard work, and resources to make this project a reality more than once.

I have always believed that no child should have to begin the school year without the necessary supplies. Every year, I adopt a Wilder program for children who are in need back-to-school essentials. Each event poses its challenges. Dealing with such large amounts, I manage to either forget something or miscount. I’m a writer and math has never been my forte! I thought I hadn’t ordered folders and ran to Office Max early Sunday morning to pick up 150 two-pocket folders in various colors.

By the time the Stumne family arrived, I thought disaster had been averted. It turned out that I had, in fact, already ordered folders, but had neglected to buy single subject notebooks for the elementary kids. Whoops. Road trip! Notebooks were secured in a short period. Then we went to pay for them. For reasons only the tech gods are privy to, just as the order was about to be processed, the computer froze. Twice. The manager was called. Through a ‘back door’ method only known to insiders, the notebooks were finally paid for. Whew!

Aside from the glitches, the experience was meaningful as it always is. It was great to share this time with the Stumne family, knowing we had completed a task that provides children with the tools they need to succeed. It’s especially heartening that at thirteen, their daughter is embracing volunteering, understanding the positive effect in changing lives for the better. It’s moments like that make my blunders a distant memory. Sophie, however, is also a math whiz, so I may find it worth my while next year to ask her for supply ordering assistance!

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