EDITORIAL: Meriden firefighters give out backpacks

EDITORIAL: Meriden firefighters give out backpacks

Meriden firefighters have come to the rescue again.

In another great example of service to the community, members of Fire Local 1148 gave away about a thousand backpacks to students in pre-K through the 8th grade Tuesday at the city’s 16th annual Back-to-School Expo.

Local 1148 organizes the event each year by collecting backpacks and stuffing them with school supplies. Firefighter and event organizer Ryan Gilhuly said the expo is the union’s biggest annual outreach effort. Preparation and fundraising begin a year in advance for the “100 percent volunteer event.”

Thanks to the hard work of the volunteers and the generosity of contributors from all over the city, close to 9,000 backpacks filled with school supplies have found their way to kids who need them over the years.

The start of school can be stressful enough for parents and kids without wondering how they can afford all of the supplies they need to start off right. And so, on Sunday morning, volunteers gathered at the Chamberlain Highway firehouse to stuff the backpacks with all the school supplies a child might need for the coming school year. The volunteers worked in an assembly line, making sure that each of the approximately 20 items per pack finds its way inside.

“It’s nice to see them light up and get excited," Matt Avery, a Meriden firefighter and one of the organizers, said on Sunday.

“There are a lot of people who believe in this program and there are a lot of people who depend on this program,” said Gilhuly.

“Everyone wants to feel like they are equal. No one wants to feel like (others) start out with an advantage that they don't have,” said Martha-Anne Noonan, an 8th-grade language arts teacher at Lincoln Middle School.

The Meriden Back-to-School Expo is another way to make sure no child gets left behind.

Local 1148 seeks monetary contributions to the backpack effort year-round. People interested in making a donation can do so at any Meriden fire station.