SouthCoast Today: ‘We couldn’t be more grateful’: Free backpacks at Gomes Elementary in New Bedford

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Reprinted from SouthCoast Today

NEW BEDFORD — Ava Neno, a Grade 4 student at Gomes Elementary, has three ideas for doing better in school: listen to her teachers, do her homework, work hard.

She was one of many students Tuesday afternoon who were pulled from a crowd of about 280 from the Gomes and Renaissance schools to play games, chant cheers and answer questions at a surprise backpack giveaway.

“Rule 1, no boos!” cried Rick Wagner to thumping music by DJ Fame. Both are from State Bags, a Brooklyn-based company that donates a backpack for every bag or backpack bought.

Scot and Jacqueline Tatelman created a nonprofit summer camp eight years ago and were sad to see how many children came carrying their possessions in trash bags. So they started State, a one-for-one company, he said.

“For everyone who buys a bag or backpack from us, no matter what style, we make one to donate to kids in need across the country,” he said.

The company has donated hundreds of backpacks across the state in Charlestown, Dorchester, Lynn and came to New Bedford for the first time Tuesday.

“It’s such a wonderful feeling to be a part of giving back to New Bedford,” said Jeff Glassman, president of Darn It! Inc., a warehouse and distribution company on Belleville Avenue. State is one of his clients and when they met earlier this year he said they discussed the idea of having a bag drop in the city.

Students exploded with claps and cheers Tuesday as motivational speakers from State Bags led them in high-energy activities at the South Second Street school.

Superintendent Pia Durkin, who is from Brooklyn and started her teaching career there, shared a story with the students. She pulled out a faded piece of paper she said she always carries that had the words “Never give up,” written on it. It was given to her by a teacher at a time when she said she wasn’t sure she could be a good teacher. She asked students to repeat that message in a chant.

Although 300 red or blue backpacks were given out Tuesday, the company will donate 600 more so all students at Gomes and Renaissance get one, officials said. Bombas, another one-for-one company, donated socks as well.

“We couldn’t be more grateful,” said Principal Ellyn Gallant. “We have a lot of children in need and this gives them the opportunity to have a backpack to bring to school so they are ready to learn.”

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