Just in time for the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the Westminster Police Department and Westminster School District partnered to donate backpacks filled with school supplies to give to underprivileged kids.
The donation event was held on Aug. 16, 2021 in front of the police station, where families could take back-to-school pictures with a school bus, an armored SWAT vehicle, and a police car parked next to the donation booths.
“This kind of thing means a lot to families,” said parent An-Hoa Tran. “Just being able to have your kids start off the first day of school well prepared and not be insufficient in supplies is just a miracle.”
The Westminster Police Officers’ Association donated the backpacks and school supplies for the event — a total of 285 backpacks were handed out. Westminster School District Parent and Family Engagement Specialist Mariela Bridgewaters noted there were enough supplies for all of the families that signed up.
“We appreciate the opportunity to partner with our friends at the Westminster School District in an effort to better prepare our young students for the upcoming school year,” Westminster PD Sergeant Anil Adam said. “We would also like to thank the district staff for their hard work in organizing this fantastic event as well as for their dedication to their students.”
The Westminster School District holds the back-to-school donation event annually. However, this is the first time the district has partnered with the police department to hand out backpacks and school supplies.
“The physical safety, welfare, and education of our youth is of the utmost importance to the Westminster Police Department,” Adam said. “These boys and girls are our future. We hope to be a regular part of this event as we continue to build strong relationships with our community.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the back-to-school donation event didn’t happen as a formal event. Instead, Bridgewaters made individual appointments with families to hand out backpacks and school supplies.
“The need has been so great that I felt that even if we were restricted by COVID-19, something needed to happen,” Bridgewaters said. “We still needed to do things for the families that are in such great need.”
Her husband, a former police officer, was the inspiration for the partnership, she said.
“My husband (Karl David Bridgewaters) was a police officer here for 27 years,” Bridgewaters said. “And I wanted to do something to bring the community, the school district, and the police department together, just to have the families feel more comfortable with the police.”
Nearing the front of the line, Tran said her kids are excited for school to start on Sept. 1.
“They’re happy to be back in school, to have some level of normality,” Tran said. “During all that happened last year with COVID-19, it was a very stressful school year for them.”
Juan Orduno waited in the line with his younger sister, Elisa, to find her a new backpack.
“She’s really picky about her backpack,” Juan said. “So, if she ends up finding one that she likes here, then we don’t really need to waste extra money on a backpack. Instead, we can buy more supplies.”
Waiting in line, anime fan and fourth-grader Pierce Gonzalez had his eyes locked on a new Naruto backpack, and was disappointed when another kid claimed that bag. Instead, he picked out a bright orange backpack. His little brother, Daniel, picked out a red backpack, his favorite color.
As the family was leaving, Bridgewaters overheard Pierce’s disappointment and she led him over to another big pile of backpacks in search of a Naruto bag — and found one.
“I love it,” Gonzalez said. Daniel wanted to match his older brother, so he traded in his red backpack for a matching Naruto bag.
Mackenzie Nguyen left the event proudly hugging her new Frozen backpack.
“It’s my favorite movie,” she said.
The Westminster School District hands out donated backpacks throughout the school year to students in need. Anyone interested in donating school supplies can email Mariela Bridgewaters at firstname.lastname@example.org.