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Shoes and Supplies Bring Smiles

Westport Family Program Coordinator Patty Haberstroh will be scanning through school pictures later this year. She'll be looking for students who received help from the Back to School Program.

"I will know they are dressed head to toe in things they got here, and it makes me happy," she said in the Human Services office in Town Hall. While she discusses the program, one of the kids she is trying to help offers her a wristband in a gesture a friendship.

The Back to School program lets children of qualifying families come in and select a backpack and fill it themselves with school supplies. Everything from notebooks to calculators are available. In addition, every child gets a $30 gift certificate to Payless Shoes from the Salvation Army.

Families who need the program's assistance must schedule an appointment with Human Services. Sessions will run from July 27 to Aug. 4.

Everything is funded through donations, though the department does have a handful of funds it can dip into. Athletic Shoe Factory, Wish List and Lollipop Guild also make donations, often of the same items their classmates are purchasing.

Last year 216 kids from 116 families took part in the program. That was a 16 percent rise over 2008. When it started in 2001, only 48 children were in the program. No year has seen a rise of less than 12 percent over the previous one.

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