Long Branch, NJ – Family & Children’s Service, Monmouth County’s oldest non-profit agency, is seeking donations for its annual Reading Buddies Backpack Project which provides new backpacks filled with school supplies to elementary school students in underserved communities throughout Monmouth County. Administered through FCS’s Retired and Senior Volunteers Program (RSVP), the Reading Buddies Backpack Project attempts to level the playing field for those children whose families may not be able to afford new school supplies.

Sales Associate Sarina Medina (left) and Assistant Manager Derrick Harris from the Panera cafe in Ocean prepare to accept donations for FCS's Reading Buddies Backpack Project.

“Imagine you are the student who comes to school the first day hoping no one will notice that you don’t have a backpack or essential supplies? Would you be able to concentrate on learning?” FCS Manager of Volunteer Services Samantha White asks. “We want every child to start off the year right, to have the confidence and enthusiasm they need to learn and to grow. Giving them the tools and supplies to learn is part of that process.”

Last year, the Backpack project fulfilled requests for more than 600 free backpacks for children at 18 Monmouth County public elementary schools thanks to the generous donations of dozens of local businesses and organizations. This year, the agency is teaming up with the five local Panera Bread® cafes to expand the drive.  Collection bins have been placed in the Panera Bread® cafes in Shrewsbury (1050 Broad Street), Howell (4715 Route 9 North), Freehold (531 Soloman Way-Mount’s Corner), Middletown (776 State Road 35) and Ocean (Ocean Plaza 1100 Route 35). Donations will be accepted through Monday, August 29th and FCS will collect and distribute them to the schools to give to the children who need them.

In addition to new backpacks, the agency is seeking donations of new pens, and pencils, crayons, washable markers, blunt scissors, 2-pocket folders, rulers, pencil cases and boxes, pencil sharpeners and erasers, glue sticks and wide-rule notebooks.

Volunteers are also needed to sort and pack the backpacks once the items are collected.  If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Samantha White, Manager of Volunteer Services at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 732-222-9111.