As a new school year approaches, more than 50 local students will be outfitted with new backpacks filled with school supplies thanks to the West Bay Rotary Club’s Backpacks for Kids program.

For the past two years, L. L. Bean has supported Backpacks for Kids with a donation of 50 brand new backpacks. Cash donations from West Bay Rotary members and friends — as well as the donation of a gift card from Staples in Rockland — helped purchase supplies to fill the majority of the backpacks. Depending on the age of the student, school supplies may include three-ring binders with paper, spiral-bound notebooks, folders, pens, pencils, erasers, glue sticks, crayons or markers, and, for those in high school, scientific calculators. The schools themselves determine which students may need a backpack.

Spearheaded by West Bay Rotary member Barbara Heard, Backpacks for Kids is now in its fifth year. Owner of local business Camden Accommodations, Heard was looking for a way she could give back to the community. Her first thought was to somehow support children in need.

“As the mother of four and now grandmother of three, I know how expensive it can be to clothe and outfit kids for school each fall, Heard said in a news release. "Years ago I worked in the school system and one of my students had nothing. Judy Clossey, the school nurse back then, gave him a full backpack with everything he needed, and he was so thrilled! I’ve never forgotten that.”

Backpacks with supplies have been distributed to Hope Elementary School, Lincolnville Central School, Appleton Village School, Camden-Rockport Elementary and Middle Schools, Camden Hills Regional High School, and the Hospitality House/Knox County Homeless Coalition. Empty backpacks have also been shared with the Camden Area Food Pantry, which will fill and distribute them, as well.

Those interested in adding additional support to Backpacks for Kids should contact Barbara Heard at 236-6090. For more information about West Bay Rotary Club and its programs, please visit or join the club for a weekly meeting, held every Thursday morning at 7:15 at the First Congregational Church in Camden.