Local business gives free backpacks to students in need

2014-08-09T00:00:00Z Local business gives free backpacks to students in needBy SEAN PLEMMONS splemmons@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Craig Bartholomew grew up not having much. Other families in the community helped his family. And the mentality to help others has been ingrained in his mind ever since.

Bartholomew, as owner of 360 Office Solutions, has upheld that mentality. About three years ago, Bartholomew and his company started providing backpacks filled with school supplies for low-income students of Lockwood School.

“We want to make a difference,” Bartholomew said. “My heart goes out to the kids who don’t have very much because I grew up not having much as well.”

Kathy Pierce, marketing director for 360 Office Solutions, said once the company found out about the students in need at Lockwood School, they took it on as a company project.

“It’s important for the kids to fit in and have everything they need on the first day,” Pierce said. “Having those supplies makes it so they don’t have to be without.”

The company receives donations from some of their vendors for items such as glue sticks, pens, pencils and paper. Some items, though, the company buys. 360 Office Solutions buys 100 backpacks every year for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade. The backpacks differ in size, shape and color so that not too many are alike.

Bartholomew said last year the company dropped off the bulk donation to Lockwood School so people there could stuff the backpacks with different supplies for the different students.

The school determines the recipients of each backpack, Bartholomew said, and 360 Office Solutions buys materials not for individuals, but for all in the K-6 age range.

“Kids are vulnerable at that age,” Bartholomew said. “We have to make this place better. These kids and these schools are part of our community, and many won’t be able to survive without the help of others.”

Bartholomew has seen the need of students in areas like Lockwood, where some students rely on school-packed meals to eat on the weekend. But he hopes the backpacks will help the students out even more.

“Some students might be embarrassed after getting a backpack,” Bartholomew said. “But they have nothing to be embarrassed about. Kids are smart and they know how to figure it out. Some might be thankful for what they receive, too.”

Bartholomew said his company also works with other charities and non-profits to help others. He hopes the initiative to provide backpacks will spread to other communities where 360 is located, such as Helena and Bozeman.

“Maybe we can ratchet it up from 100 to 200 or even 400 backpacks,” Bartholomew said. “I’d love to see the day where we buy 1,000 backpacks for kids.”

Bartholomew said employees of the business have also helped donate to the cause. It’s all about wanting to help others, he said.

“We are always going to do this,” he said. “We don’t do enough, but it’s a start.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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