Backpack Donation Needs Already Filled, School Says
The needs of Curtis Fundamental Elementary students were met with backpack and school supply donations from parents before The Backpack Lady Project attempted to donate to the school last week, the principal said Monday.
Principal Pam Metz-Easley said she was not on site when Rob Ditro, founder of The Backpack Lady Project, arrived last week to drop off backpacks for students in need, but that a Curtis Fundamental parent had already made a generous donation of backpacks and supplies.
Ditro said he was offended when his donation was declined. He dropped by unexpectedly during school hours Thursday with 10 backpacks stuffed with supplies. The front desk ended up accepting two of the backpacks.
Metz-Easely said staff at the front desk was merely trying to direct Ditro to a school "that might need it more than us," she said.
Curtis Fundamental is a lottery enrollment school of about 540. About 19 percent of its total enrollment — or 102 students — qualify for free and reduced lunch, according to school district records. It is also one of Dunedin's two consistent 'A'-rated schools, according to the state.
By contrast, Skycrest Elementary in Clearwater, another beneficiary of The Backpack Lady Project, serves a much higher population of low-income students. Out of the approximate 730 students, roughly 89 percent qualify for free and reduced lunch, Principal Angelean Bing said as she welcomed 10 Backpack Lady donations in late August.
Metz-Easley said she spoke to Ditro on Friday and told him she would add The Backpack Lady Project to a list of possible organizations that some of the students may wish to adopt when it comes time to chose an annual community service project. In the past, the students have helped solicit all types of donations, including for the Humane Society, she said.
Ditro started The Backpack Lady Project to honor his late mother's legacy of anonymous giving. The organization seeks backpack donations from the public annually for distribution at local schools.
Ditro's organization supplied 10 backpacks each to six elementary schools this year, including Our Lady of Lourdes School, San Jose Elementary,Skycrest Elementary, Dunedin Elementary, Garrison-Jones Elementary and Sandy Lane Elementary.
The Backpack Lady Project has supplied nearly 200 backpacks to schools in Dunedin and Clearwater since it started last year. A recent back-to-school backpack drive at the Dunedin Public Library and Florida Auto Exchange Stadium raised 22 backpacks and some school supplies.