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Volunteers fill backpacks for the needy

Tami Ruben, of Port Washington, and her daughters

Tami Ruben, of Port Washington, and her daughters Sydney Ruben, 16, left, and Nina, 21, volunteered to fill backpacks with school supplies for children from needy families across Long Island at Schechter School of Long Island in Williston Park. (Aug. 15, 2012) Credit: Brittany Wait

Darla Tehan, a single stay-at-home mother, had been searching for an organization that would provide her children with school supplies for the first day of school.

She found an annual program called “Supplies for Success,” which provides backpacks with supplies to children from needy families across Long Island.

The UJA-Federation of New York — a philanthropic group that raises funds to fight poverty and help the elderly, children and those with disabilities — launched the program in 2002. It’s grown from filling 68 backpacks in its first year to 3,200 backpacks in 2011.

The organization expects to fill over 4,000 backpacks with notebooks, scissors, glue sticks, markers and other materials by the end of Thursday.

Tehan and her children Nicholas, 4, and Madison, 7, were among the 100 volunteers to fill about 3,000 backpacks at the Schechter School of Long Island in Williston Park on Wednesday.

“When I had a second child, that’s when I needed help,” said Tehan, 37, of Oceanside. “My son is going into kindergarten in the fall and needs all of this. It’s nice for them to see other kids helping out, too.”

The backpacks will be distributed to students through UJA-Federation beneficiary agencies, including F.E.G.S. Health and Human Services System in Syosset, the Jewish Community Center of the Greater Five Towns in Lawrence and the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center in Commack.

Mindy Richenstein, a founder and co-chair of “Supplies for Success,” said volunteers between ages 7 and 85 turned out to fill backpacks and replenish boxes of supplies.

“I believe that to walk into school without a backpack, without pens and paper, must be terribly embarrassing and to save kids from that feeling is gratifying,” Richenstein said. “How can you learn without having the basic tools? If we can help them come to school prepared then they can learn and better their lives through education.”

Tami Ruben, of Port Washington, has been bringing her daughters Sydney, 16, and Nina, 21, since they were children.

“It’s just a great opportunity for our kids to learn that there are other kids who need their help,” said Tami Ruben, former chair of “Supplies for Success.”

Sydney Ruben has been volunteering to fill backpacks with her family since age 8.

“School is tough to begin with and I can’t imagine not having supplies,” said Ruben, 16, a rising junior at North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck. “We’re all so lucky not to have to think about it when we go on that Staples run before the new school year. We’re giving all those kids who can’t afford the supplies an equal opportunity to succeed in school and the dignity to come prepared to class.”

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