School shopping is not only physically draining, it can be a financial drain as well. For some families in the Wesley Chapel area, the burden of buying new school supplies can mean deciding between the amount of groceries for the week and the new backpack that their child needs for the new school year. Luckily, there was a helping hand this year for students from low-income families, and/or those who qualify for Pasco’s free or reduced lunch program.

“Projects of Pasco” is a non-profit organization that operates primarily in eastern Pasco County and has been running this free school supplies event for the last seven years. The organization’s mission is to help provide students with all the necessary school supplies rom kindergarten to high school. This year, dozens of volunteers, including the cheerleading team from Wesley Chapel High and Boy Scout Troop #177, got together at Wesley Chapel Elementary on August 13 to hand out hundreds of backpacks, tens of thousands of pens and pencils, bottles of glue, notebook paper, folders, binders and more.

“We have everything here that you could find at a Wal-Mart or school supplies store,” said Fulk. “Everything except the cash register.”

According to Fulk, she purposely designed the school supplies drive to mirror the aisles of a school supplies store – she wants the parents to be able to pick and choose which supplies they think their child would want to use at school, rather than just handing them a bag pre-packed with an assortment of supplies. The idea behind the drive is for it not to feel like a charity, she said.

“I found everything I needed today,” said a parent of a Wesley Chapel Elementary student. “I feel blessed.”

More than 1,150 parents pre-registered for this year’s school supplies drive to receive some of the $11,000 worth of supplies. “Projects of Pasco” receives donations from local businesses and individuals every year. According to Fulk, the VFW in Zephyrhills, the New York Yankees and Verizon Wireless annually donate thousands of dollars to the organization. Metro Storage on S.R. 54 in Wesley Chapel donates its largest air-conditioned storage space for Projects of Pasco to collect school supplies year-round.

For additional information about how to make a donation to the “Projects of Pasco,” call Anna Fulk at 738-3038. — Sean Bowes

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