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Donation drive to collect backpacks, supplies for students
Backpack drive Eastern Star
Mary Ella Williams of Turlock’s Wistaria Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star helps organize her group’s donations to the TUSD Backpack and School Supply Drive (Photo contributed).

With the start of a new school year right around the corner, Turlock Unified School District is asking the community to step up and help less fortunate students who may not have access to the supplies they need.

A TUSD Backpack and School Supply Drive will be held on Tuesday, marking the first time the District has sponsored such an event of its own. In the past, Medic Alert, Stanislaus State, Stanislaus County Office of Education and Turlock’s local Free Masons have held backpack drives for students, however, this year, a generous donation of 200 supply-filled backpacks to TUSD from the latter inspired the District to host its own drive in order to spur even more giving.

“We have many students who are struggling and need support. For example, foster youth, homeless students, recent arrivals to the country and students living in poverty,” TUSD Director of Student Services Gil Ogden said. “A new backpack and school supplies are critical to students’ self-esteem and success in school. Moreover, I think it makes students feel that people in the community care about them and their education is important.”



Pencil pouches or boxes


Wide-ruled notebooks



Glue sticks


Pencil sharpeners

Ballpoint pens

Pink erasers

Ruled index cards


Pocket-sized tissues

Turlock’s Wistaria Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, along with TUSD Character Coaches, are helping to run the backpack drive. The Freemasonry group’s Worthy Matron, Mary Ella Williams, said they filled about 100 backpacks for the school district last year, and this year spent one weekend filling over 200 backpacks with over $2,000 worth of school supplies.

Ogden would be pleased to see at least 300 backpacks collected during the drive, while the Free Masons hope the community can donate enough to fill an additional 700 backpacks — an attainable number, as TUSD union members have also donated filled backpacks as well.

“If our little group of about 20 people can fill 200 backpacks, I’d like to see us hit about 1,000,” Williams said. “We have several schools that are serving kids who are coming from families who just need a hand. The children aren’t responsible for the situation they’re in, and they just need some help so they have a chance to succeed in the classroom.”

Community members who stop by the drive can bring either backpacks filled with supplies, Williams explained, or individual supplies that can be used to fill empty backpacks, which can also be donated. Examples of school supplies the students will need include pencil boxes, pink erasers, highlighters, ruled index cards and more.

“Our attendance motto at TUSD is ‘Every day counts and success starts with attendance,’ and we know that having all the essential school supplies will encourage kids to come to school each day,” Ogden said. “I just wish people could see the smile and excitement on the face of students when they receive a new backpack that is full of supplies.

“Their donation is truly making a difference in the life of at least one child.”

The TUSD Backpack and School Supply Drive will take place from 8 a.m. to noon Aug. 6 in the District Office Circle, 1574 E. Canal Dr. For more information, contact the District Office at 209-667-0632.