When the first school bells ring in Little Falls and Mohawk in September, over 100 students will have what they need thanks to the generosity of numerous sponsors.
The Uncle Frank Back-to-School Program, a project of the Herkimer County Hunger Coalition, has collected school supplies, book bags, outfits and shoes for 108 children going back to school at Benton Hall Academy in Little Falls and Fisher Elementary School in the former Mohawk school district.
Herkimer coalition Director and Founder Ray Lenarcic said families sign-up for the program in late May or early June, and then individuals or organizations sign-up to purchase the necessary items.
Organizers were at the drop-off sites in Little Falls and Mohawk on Wednesday collecting the donations from the sponsors.
“We’re looking forward to meeting the deserving families between 3 and 6 p.m. on Monday to pick up their supplies,” said Lenarcic on Wednesday, where he collected donations with Beverly Alwine at Little Falls City Hall.
“We do it because we feel children going back to school in September deserve to look as nice as they can,” he added. “In some cases, families need some help in that regard.”
Lenarcic is co-coordinating the Little Falls project with David Petkovsek, and Kay Lenarcic and Jan Waterbury are co-coordinating the project in Mohawk. Volunteer workers include Alwine and Kathy Lowery, who are former teachers.
The program — now in its tenth year — is named after Little Falls native Frank Vespi, who Lenarcic calls a “local hero.” He said the program is the brainchild of Robin Campbell, owner of The Piccolo Café.
The program is an offshoot of the coalition’s Gram Lorraine Children’s Christmas Clothing Program, where they reach out to over 1,000 people throughout the area to provide them with a presents during the holidays.