A first, Cranston gets Back to School backpack distribution

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For the first time in Back to School RI's 18 years, Cranston was selected as a site to distribute backpacks filled with school supplies and offer information to families they might not have easy access to.

Families came and waited in long lines, in the heat on Saturday at the Cranston YMCA.

"They were lined up and waiting before we were finished setting up. They were excited and ready to go," said Lammis Vargas site coordinator for Cranston.

Vargas, an Edgewood resident was approached by organization president; Jorge Cardenas on expanding the program to Cranston and asking her to be site coordinator, she jumped at the opportunity. By adding Cranston to their list, there were 12 sites in Rhode Island distributing supplies to students.

"The Back to School celebration has been happening since 1999. I'm so excited the organization was able to expand into another city, Cranston, my hometown.  I'm also very thankful the Cranston YMCA Executive Director and the board were able to work with the Back to School Celebration of RI in allowing us to use their site and partner on this event," said Vargas.

The list of vendors that attended the program include RI Treasurer Office- Unclaimed Property Division, Office of Child Support, Services, RI Dept of State- Elections Division, The Children Workshop, The College Crusade of RI, The Inner You Counseling Center, RI-CAR, Neighborhood Health Plan, Boy Scout of America, Girl Scout of RI, CCAP, and North American Family Institute

"The vendors at the site provided families with resources available to them across the state and city. There was a DJ, free hotdogs and burgers provided by Sodexo. We had a great presence by the Cranston Police Dept. All of this was possible because of the great sponsors the Back to School Celebration of RI has been having over the years and continues to have. Lots of hard work by the volunteers went in, to make it happen and I can't thank them enough,' said Vargas.

The attendees had to pick up a passport at the start of the line, visit each vendor station to get their passports stamped, and then present a completed passport to the backpack table where each child was able to pick out the backpack of their choice.

"I got a backpack, I saw the police dog and ate two hot dogs," said five year Ayden Diaz who is starting kindergarten in the fall.

"I am grateful to Cranston for having this event, we look forward to next year," said Ayden's Mom Angela.

Of the one thousand backpacks Cranston had to distribute, approximately only one hundred were left.

"We are hoping to get in touch with either the Cranston School Department, or the Cranston Family Center (COZ) to get these last few backpacks into hands of kids before school starts," said Vargas.

For more information on the Back to School Rhode Island initiative, visit www.btscri.org.

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