More than 90 volunteers — ranging from student age though older adults — joined forces July 31 at Condit Presbyterian Church for the Big Walnut Friends Who Share’s 13th annual “Brett’s Book Bag Stuffing” event.
Volunteers stuffed student book bags with school supplies needed for the approaching school year as part of the Brett Stelzer Book Bag Project, a Friends Who Share back-to-school project that furnishes school supplies to Big Walnut families in need.
The project has been in existence for as long as Friends Who Share has been around. Mark and Gloria Stelzer, who lost their son Brett to an accident on Valentine’s Day 2004, started the project. Brett would have been a member of the Big Walnut High School class of 2007.
Kathy Kees, who organizes the project so that each child receives supplies needed at his or her grade level to begin the school year, said 126 book bags were filled this year, and 62 families were served.
“We sent letters to 15 Big Walnut-area churches with a list of our needs, and all 15 churches responded,” Kees said. “The cooperation of this community has been overwhelming, from the donations that we receive, to the care volunteers take in placing school supplies in the bags.”
Volunteers, many friends of Brett and some working in pairs, picked up a bag with a student’s supply list attached and began the winding route past tables loaded with school supplies, stopping, checking the list and adding supplies as needed.
Kees said the book bags are top-end brands supplied at cost by her sister’s Learning Express stores in New Albany, Worthington and Upper Arlington.
“We have a nucleus of people who show up here every year to help stuff book bags,” Kees said. “When we started doing this 13 years ago, many of the volunteers that showed up were school-age friends of Brett. Many of those same volunteers return each year, some of them now bring along children of their own.”
And as soon as each year’s book bag stuffing is over, Kees said she takes an inventory of leftover school supplies and organizers start looking ahead to next year.
Anyone wishing to donate can send a check to Big Walnut Friends Who Share and earmark the check for purchasing bags and supplies in Brett’s memory.