Children affected by Hurricane Katrina have no shortage of needs and two Junior Girl Scouts from Saratoga Elementary are trying to address one of those needs. Jessica Harmon and Christine Swengros, both sixth graders, are collecting backpacks full of school and other supplies as part of the National We've Got Your Back Program which will send the backpacks to victims of Hurricane Katrina.
"We're supporting the We've Got Your Back association by asking people to fill up book bags with supplies," said Christine.
From Sept. 17-25, the girls will be collecting backpacks, with supplies like notebooks, water bottles or even soap. Backpacks are being dropped off at Saratoga Elementary and Jessica's house in the community of Terra Grande.
"We are asking people to bring book bags to the school," said Christine.
"The bags need supplies in them for the kids from Katrina who are going back to school," said Jessica.
The two girls printed out 800 flyers which they distributed throughout their communities of Terra Grande and Saratoga and which are being sent home with the students of Saratoga Elementary. The girls have also appeared on the school's news station talking about their cause and have put up a poster at the local Giant grocery store.
"We thought we would need a lot of money to do all this," Jessica said, "but we made copies at home and at my dad's work."
The idea for the backpack drive came to the girls as they were looking for a service project in order to earn their Bronze Award. The Bronze Award is the highest honor a Junior Girl Scout can receive.
"I was watching Nickelodeon one day and there was a commercial for We've Got Your Back," said Jessica. "We thought how cool it would be to get everybody involved and ship all those bags to the kids there."
The goal of the drive was to collect around 100 backpacks but even now the campaign is far exceeding expectations said Lorie Harmon, Jessica's mother. "We have other schools calling and donating back packs filled to the brim. One bag weighs close to 25 pounds, it is so full. The response is just overwhelming."
WITH THIS overwhelming response comes a big hurtle for the girls to get overcome: how to get all the backpacks and supplies to the Houston, Texas drop off point.
"Shipping so much is very expensive," said Lorie Harmon.
"We are going to try to raise money to ship the bags and we are asking local businesses to give us discounts on shipping," said Christine. However, not many businesses are helping out and the girls still face a big problem of figuring out what the best way to ship is.
Lorie Harmon has found another group that has been collecting backpacks too and is hoping that the two groups together can get a shipping truck to get the bags to Houston. Since the deadline for the bags is Sept. 30, the girls need to ship as soon as they can.
The girls are not stopping with just aiding Katrina victims either. "This is an all year long project," said Christine. "We want to get backpacks for anyone who needs them."
For more information or to help in any way call 703-569-6309.