Executive Director Leonardo Garcia of the Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida is proud to announce that Neal Communities has once again stepped up to become the presenting sponsor of the annual BIG Backpack Event. The beneficiaries of this generous support is the 2,000 Lee County students and their families who will receive free backpacks, school supplies and bags full of kid-friendly groceries at the 21st annual Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida BIG Backpack Event set for Sunday, July 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fort Myers Skatium.
This is the fifth straight year Neal Communities will sponsor the event, which takes on a different but exciting look this year because of COVID-19 safety precautions. Understanding the financial hardships brought on by the pandemic, Neal Communities set an initial fundraising goal of $10,000. Neal Communities, its vendors and staff responded with open hearts, easily surpassing that goal to present the Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida with an initial check for $14,400. Since then, more donations have come in and Neal Communities is quickly gaining on its record-breaking amount of $20,000 set last year.
“What the Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida is doing has always been needed but this year even more so,” said Tim Oak, SWFL regional president for Neal Communities about the organizations efforts to give struggling families the resources they need to kick off the new school year. “We thank them for helping the children in our community and look forward to seeing everyone at the event.”
The BIG Backpack Event will use a carline this year to distribute the necessary supplies in an effort to protect families and volunteers. In addition to the free backpacks, children, ages 5 to 12 will receive, each family will receive a grocery bag full of kid-friendly food such as peanut butter, jelly, pop tarts, box of oatmeal packets, macaroni and cheese, tuna, SpaghettiOs, pasta and spaghetti sauce thanks to Community Cooperative. Blessings in a Backpack of Southwest Florida donated individual packages of school supplies that will be distributed in each backpack.
Nearly 40,000 backpacks have been distributed to families over the event’s 20-year history. An estimated 80 percent of Lee County children qualify for free or reduced meal programs at their schools and that was prior to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.