By Jessica Mathews /

School may be out for the summer for Livingston County students but organizers behind an annual campaign are already focused on setting them up for success in the fall.

The Livingston Educational Service Agency is hosting its 20th annual backpacks for Kids Project. The effort provides local students whose families are experiencing financial difficulties with backpacks and basic school supplies at no cost. The distribution event will be held on Thursday, August 12th but will operate a bit differently again due to the pandemic as a drive-thru event at the Livingston ESA Education Center.

Great Start Coordinator Robin Schutz says it’s a good opportunity for the community to come together and they distribute the backpacks right before the school year starts so students can begin the year with a backpack full of supplies. She added it just helps reduce some barriers for families as it can be not only time-consuming but an extra cost barrier.

Schutz says they shifted gears last year and offered a drive-thru event, which went very well and was broken up into different time slots based on the different local districts. As they were planning this year and didn’t know what to expect, she tells WHMI they decided to do a drive-thru event again but will expand it a little bit and are also hoping to have some things available from their community partners.

Schutz says they do anticipate seeing a need this year. She says last year they were unsure about people even coming out with the pandemic but ended up giving out close to 900 backpacks on the day of the event. Schutz says an additional amount went out to school districts afterward so they again ended up distributing around 1,000 backpacks and they’re planning on doing around the same amount this year. She said they’re not really sure how the pandemic has impacted families and haven’t seen data but do know that local families are in various situations and they want children to be able to start the year out right whether attending school in person or remotely.

Backpacks and supplies along with monetary donations can be dropped off through August 5th at the Livingston Education Service Agency located at 1425 West Grand River in Howell from 8am to 4pm Monday through Thursday throughout the summer. In addition to donations, businesses or organizations interested in serving as collection sites are also being sought.

More information and a supply list are available through the provided web link. Those interested in becoming a collection site should contact Judy Paulsen at 517.540.6802 or email