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Local Kiwanis Club donates backpacks
9-29 Kiwanis backpacks
Richland Center Kiwanis Club members (L to R) Stacy Kleist, Jim Rowland, Harriet Rowland, Tom Hougan and Karee Gander are shown with a few of the supplies they gathered to benefit needy schoolchildren.


“When I first joined Kiwanis, one of the questions I was asked was ‘Do you feel there are any unmet needs for the kids in our community?’ I work at Social Services, it was the fall and we’d had so many people calling and asking for school supplies.” Kiwanis member Karee Gander recalls the start of what is now an annual gift-giving tradition through which the

Richland Center Kiwanis Club provides backpacks and school supplies to area families in need. The Kiwanis Back-to-School Project started 10 years ago. In the first year of giving, RC Kiwanis purchased and distributed school supplies and 20 backpacks to needy students in the Richland School District.  This year, the local club provided backpacks and supplies to needy students in all of the school districts within Richland County. In all, more than 200 backpacks were distributed, all filled with school supplies specific to the needs of the students served. 

The value of the backpacks and supplies distributed this year is estimated at approximately $4,000. Donations from individuals, groups and businesses throughout the community help offset the expense of the project, though it continues to be primarily supported by Kiwanis funds. These funds are generated through fundraising activities, most of them from the Kiwanis food stand during the Wisconsin High School Rodeo and Richland County Fair.

Karee Gander says that the Kiwanis Back-to-School Project is not geographically bound to Richland County. This year, like in years past, some of the referrals for backpacks and supplies came from nearby counties. She recalls one year, when the local Kiwanis club donated a number of backpacks and supplies to North Crawford School District students whose families had purchased supplies but lost those supplies and all of their other belongings when their homes flooded in the Gays Mills-Soldiers Grove area.