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Backing up students with backpacks!

Thanks to the generosity of the community we have distributed a whopping 1,626 backpacks stuffed with school supplies to low-income students in Contra Costa County. This exceeded our goal of 1,300 thanks to the generous support of our donors in the community.

Each year our Project Ready-to-Learn program focuses on providing school children with the tools needed to succeed! Groups like the mother-daughter National Charity League of Rolling Hills (above) who donated their time to assemble nearly 450 backpacks, help us prepare students for the school year and compete with their more affluent classmates. Thank you also to the following organizations for stuffing backpacks for us or for donating packs ready to go:

  • Alain Pinel Realtors
  • Alamo Women’s Club
  • National Charities Leagu – Diablo Valley & Boys group
  • EverFi
  • Clayton Business Community Association
  • Schneider-Electric
  • El Sobrante United Methodist Church
  • American Mechanical
  • Yvonne Bullock
  • Carolyn Harley
  • Jerry Falgien
  • Trudy Ketelhut
  • and more!



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Thank You Backpack Donors!

“See you tomorrow! I’ll call you about the homework. Hey, toss me my backpack!”  Students today rely on their backpacks as portable sources of food, books, pens, paper, and comfort. The ubiquitous backpack is a symbol of school and the independence we expect of students as they make their way through a school day. But what if a student didn’t have a backpack? It is hard to imagine, but that is the reality for many low-income children associated with Contra Costa Employment & Human Services Department (EHSD) – our social service network. These children experience a much higher level of instability in their homes and school lives. With the proper tools, including a well –equipped backpack, they can be better prepared to learn and get the most from their daily experience.

Project Ready-to-Learn (PRTL) is our annual school backpack giveaway for low-income children of EHSD clients. Thanks to groups like East Bay Times, private donors, and community-minded employees of companies like Schneider Electric (above) VESTIA is able to distribute 1,300 new backpacks filled with supplies to school children across Contra Costa County through PRTL.

A backpack may not seem like much, but to the child that receives that needed backpack, it can mean the world. He or she can now attend school with a new backpack, just like everyone else. He will have paper when the teacher says to get the paper out. She will be able to do the world map assignment in color, because she has markers in her backpack. The honors student will be able to take Trig because a graphing calculator is available. The right tools and supplies in a lowly backpack can open doors to the future that is not imaginable.

THANK YOU to all of our wonderful donors for tossing backpacks and school supplies our way and helping school children get ready to learn!


Endless Summer

The Kids 2 Camp experience lasts all summer long!

Those of you who had the opportunity to have a camping experience in your youth can remember the great experiences it offers. Contra Costa County has many families who cannot afford camps for their children. For more than 20 years VESTIA has been sending low-income and foster children to camps all over Northern California through our “Kids 2 Camp” program. In 2016 we referred 319 low-income children to one of four camps which provide enriching and often life-changing outdoor experiences. The Opportunity Camp, Camp St. Francis, Royal Family Kids Camp, and Morning Star camps help children build their confidence, learn social skills, and gain valuable experiences they can use for the rest of their lives.  Going to camp is like having an endless summer – packing a fun, rewarding, and fulfilling time into a mere week of activities. Many children who face serious issues such as homelessness, sexual and physical abuse, and other mistreatment can escape their worries and enjoy the chance to just be a kid. They often describe their entire summer by their experiences at camp. It’s a time to learn, explore, socialize, and be happy campers.


Education is a right we take for granted.

We assume that the schools, teachers and the learning process we all experienced will be there for our children and the next generations. What we forget is that public instruction, free of cost, is a relatively new phenomenon – only legislated in the U.S. since 1918. Much of the developing world does not have access to the level of education that we do. We are fortunate, and must continue to strengthen and support the educational systems that we have. The quality of education can also vary greatly even throughout Contra Costa, depending on multiple factors. We recognize that high quality education is very much dependent on the economics of where you live and the funding of the system delivering the education, not to mention the ability of parents to support their children throughout the 12 year process. We know how critical education is to future success, but we struggle with how to make that education happen, especially in communities with less stable economics and families in crisis.

I remember one of my children’s teachers talking to us parents at Back to School night and telling us how important it was to have a quiet place for the child to do his homework, with all the supplies provided to complete the assignments. What a basic concept, but I hadn’t thought of it! I ran right out and got all the supplies my child needed and designated a time and place to get the homework done. What if you didn’t have that luxury? What if you can’t afford to spend the money to buy your child supplies for the year and a decent backpack to use for school? With all the education cuts at the state and local levels, families are now responsible for providing all the supplies needed for their child in the classroom, and usually more for mutually needed items (e.g. Kleenex). We estimate the cost of a backpack filled with supplies at a minimum of $50, and that is just for the basics! High school backpacks are more expensive, with all the special highlighters, notebooks, math supplies and calculators that older students need. This can be a major challenge for parents struggling to pay rent and buy food, especially if they have more than one child attending school.

So this is where we ask for your support for Project Ready to Learn, providing backpacks and school supplies for low income children throughout our county. Remember, this is an investment in their future, giving them the resources and access to education that is part of the American dream. It is also an investment in OUR future. I joke with my children that they had better do well in school and get good jobs to pay my Social Security, but I am only partly joking. We do rely on the next generation to maintain our society and values. Let’s show them we have confidence in them now, by supporting them in school, with the simple gift of a backpack and supplies.

Thank you again, and have a great summer!

Anne Struthers
Division Manager
Contra Costa County Employment & Human Services Department