What began last year as just something to do to help kids get ready to go back to school, has turned into a major community event.

Local resident Stephanie Williams started Backpacks for Kids last year to help area students get what they need to have a successful start to the new school year.

"What started with just five backpacks full of school supplies has turned into over 200 this year," said Williams.

"I did it last year and people kept asking if I was going to do it again," she said. "Word spread and people jumped on board."

The American Legion Post in Rockland, the Legion Auxiliary, Sons of the Legion, Legion Riders, and some of the bingo players donated and collected enough items to fill 67 backpacks. They presented them to Williams Aug. 18.

"When it's something for the community, everybody gets involved," said Post Commander Darryl Leavitt.

From pencils to backpacks to notebooks, Williams has collected items from area residents and community businesses.

Williams contacted the local superintendents to find out the needs and will distribute the backpacks to the schools. She said extra items will be given to the teachers to be used in classrooms.

"I did some research before I started this and found out 38 percent of kids do not know where their next meal is coming from," said Williams. "This helps give these kids a little self-esteem."

Williams began collecting items in July and will accept more donations until Friday, Aug. 22. Items can be dropped off at Mid-Coast Gym on Park Street in Rockland, Southend Grocery on South Main Street, or Midcoast Rec Center in Rockport.

"It's such a 'feel good' kind of thing," said Williams.

Further information can be had by contacting Williams at stephhillerpt4@hotmail.com.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@courierpublicationsllc.com.