As the temperature cools down and the leaves start to change colours, parents and children prepare for the new school year. But this year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, mixed feelings are replacing the usual excitement of sending kids back to the classroom.

The uncertainty that we have all been facing over the past five months has impacted many local parents as they adjust to working remotely and face issues such as social isolation and socioeconomic well-being. The beginning of this school year can be especially hard for those who are already having a tough time making ends meet, with the average cost of back to school items being around $430 per child.

Over the past 15 years, Staples Canada has been leveraging their position as a leading office supply retail chain to purchase school supplies at cost, running an annual drive to help send students back to school with the supplies they need to be successful. Thanks to the generous support of customers across the country, the initiative has generated over $12 million to date.

Partnering with United Way’s All In for Youth initiative, Staples recognized that they were able to efficiently get school supplies and backpacks to vulnerable children and youth in need. Each year through this partnership, an estimated $125,000 in school supplies is provided to students in Calgary and the surrounding area.

This year, through their United Way workplace campaigns, volunteers from The City of Calgary and Symcor filled 2,000 donated backpacks with over $120,000 worth of school supplies for students. As the school year begins Staples anticipates that the need will be greater than ever and will run an additional drive for supplies in the fall.

Women working in a warehouse wearing a face mask

Staples general manager, Steve Roulston explains the importance of this program:

“The goal is to provide students in need with the supplies to be successful throughout their education, from kindergarten to grade 12. Helping students and parents in this way takes some of the stress off families—which is crucial this year.”

While none of us knows what this new school year will bring, we do know that united, we make the biggest difference.

If you and your family are struggling financially or mentally with the return to classes, please call 211, the free multilingual helpline that will connect you to relevant supports 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.