New name, same mission: ‘Project Fill A Backpack’ returns

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It has been a whirlwind of a year for Audrey Wendt. She’s not only an emergency room nurse and a mother of three working during the pandemic, but she now also leads a local group working to make a difference in her community.

Audrey and her husband launched WEcareGR after a school supply drive went viral last fall, generating nearly $17,000 worth of school supplies for Buchanan Elementary. From there, more projects, including two focused on senior citizens, bringing art projects to nursing homes and matching people stuck inside due to COVID-19 with a pen pal.

Now, Wendt is back, putting the word out to request more school supplies with “Project Fill a Backpack,” this year working with Cesar Chavez Elementary.

“This school has 100% of their students that qualify for free lunches, meaning that they do need help,” Wendt told News 8. “Schools have budgets, teachers have budgets, so that’s where the community can come in and fill that gap of the extra funds and supplies that these kids need and can really make their school year successful.”

Just like last year, everything is organized on Amazon using wish lists. Wendt works with the teachers to figure out what they want and need and puts the lists together. From there, people can go on Amazon, buy the items and ship them to Wendt.

“The items are sent to our house so we can organize them for the teachers, make it easy, so they don’t get just a trickling in of supplies,” Wendt said. “Then we have volunteers take it over, we have volunteers that help sort it, too.”

She says even though this is the second year of the supply drive, the energy and excitement is still there. But so is the humility and need that started it all.

“When I asked the teachers, ‘Hey, give me three things that you want for your classroom,’ I mainly got crayons, markers, coloring books. A lot of the basic things that I always thought teachers always had. So that was really heartbreaking to hear that they don’t have those things,” Wendt said.

WEcareGR is taking donations through Friday, Aug. 27. You can learn more about the group and “Project Fill A Backpack” through their Facebook page.

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