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Scott MS receives ‘enchanted’ gifts for students, staff
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Scott MS receives ‘enchanted’ gifts for students, staff

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HAMMOND — Christmas came a few months early to Scott Middle School students and staff. And even though students could not be there for the gift opening, staff more than made up for students’ absence.

Waving blue and orange poms, Scott staff lined the school driveway Thursday to say thank-you to Enchanted Backpack for its gift of $20,000 in school supplies, benefiting students and staff.

“We feel blessed,” said Lydia McNeiley, lead school counselor at Scott. “I’m really excited for our staff, students and the community. Our kids deserve this.”

Included in the gift bags are pens, pencils, dry erasers, hats, coats and scarves. While Scott students are e-learning, staff is planning a drive-thru to enable families to receive the supplies.

Enchanted Backpack is a nonprofit organization started by the Lavin Family Foundation. The foundation was created more than 50 years ago by the family that founded the Alberto Culver Co. to fund Chicagoland groups working in health care, education and programs designed to better family life.

Charity began in 2017

Started in 2017, Enchanted Backpack works annually to deliver supplies to about 50 schools. Requests for aid are reviewed on a rolling basis based on time, availability and need. A qualifying elementary or middle school must have at least 50% of its students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

In grades 6-8, Scott has an enrollment of 850 students, 65% of whom qualify for the lunch program, McNeiley said.

The counselor said the application process began a year ago after she saw a newspaper article about Enchanted Backpack school supplies coming to Coolidge Elementary in Lansing. COVID-19 initially delayed Scott’s interview process until this summer.

Hillary Fash, director of Enchanted Backpack, said Scott is the first Indiana school to receive its school supplies.

“We’re based in Bensenville, Illinois, so it was feasible for us to come to Hammond,” Fash said. “The need is there, and we’re happy to support the school.”

Fash added that every Enchanted Backpack delivery is special.

“We’re happy to make an impact on students and teachers, especially in these times,” she said, “so they get the supplies they need.”

Since all Hammond students are doing virtual learning for the first semester through early January, only Scott staff could attend the delivery.

Principal Jerame Hicks commented, “Our students and families are definitely going to benefit. We re-imagined how the school year would look (with COVID-19). This shows we’re doing things in a positive manner.”

Lori Evanich, a 17-year member of the Scott teaching staff, noted, "This is such a boost for us. It’s wonderful to have all these additional resources for children’s learning benefit.”

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