SOUTHINGTON - â€śI think my favorite part of today is just knowing that weâ€™re putting a smile on a kidâ€™s face in Southington,â€ť said 13-year-old Maggie Wernicki.
On Friday morning, dozens of young girls from The Giving Back Girls, along with the Southington Fire Department, helped organize and transport 400 backpacks to help Southington children in need. Tricia Gibney, whoâ€™s twin daughters Emily and Erin started the nonprofit organization, said The Giving Back Girls have been providing backpacks for children in need to the community since 2010.
â€śWhen my daughters were in sixth grade, they came up with a community group among their friends,â€ť said Gibney. â€śBack nine years ago, the Southington Community Services reached out to The Giving Back Girls and asked if they could help with the Southington Smart Start Program, which provides about 350 to 400 backpacks for Southington kids in need when they start school in September.â€ť
Every year backpacks and school supplies are transported to a warehouse on East Summer Street. There, the volunteers fill the backpacks with supplies, organize and label them by age, gender and grade. The Southington Fire Department then loads all the backpacks into their trucks and brings them to Derynoski Elementary School.
â€śWe contacted the Southington Fire Department when we first started the backpack program and theyâ€™ve helped us every since,â€ť said Gibney.
Bob Hunt, Fire Inspector and Public Relations for the Southington Fire Department for 20 years, said everyone on duty helped The Giving Back Girls.
â€śWe just really like helping. We plan on continuing to help them. And as long as they need us, weâ€™ll be here for them,â€ť said Hunt.
Forming an assembly line, firefighters and volunteers formed a chain to pass along the backpacks from outside the school to inside the main lobby.
According to Gibney, there are currently 33 active girls in The Giving Back Girls and their ages range from second graders to high school seniors.
For Wernicki, who joined when she was in second grade, she knew the Gibney family and had a passion for helping.
â€śI really wanted to give back and Iâ€™ve stayed since then,â€ť she said.
Reilly Bard, 10, said she got involved with The Giving Back Girls in fourth grade through Wernicki.
â€śWeâ€™re all just friends here,â€ť said Bard. â€śAnd giving out these backpacks means a lot because someone really needs it and Iâ€™m sure they want to feel the same like everyone else. Helping today makes me feel really good because itâ€™s about helping these kids get an education.â€ť
For more information about The Giving Back Girls, visit their website at http://thegivingbackgirls.com/index.html.