VACAVILLE — After initially expecting to fall short of their goal, a group of Will C. Wood High students delivered more than 60 supply-laden backpacks to the Vacaville Police Department and to the Church of the Epiphany for distribution to local homeless and disadvantaged people.
Police officers were to deliver the packs to local homeless camps, while the students took most of them to the church for distribution with its regular Friday evening meal.
The project was set up to coincide with the school’s Kindness Week and Friday’s wish-granting assembly.
After school, several leadership students made the trek across town to deliver the backpacks, which were filled with essentials such as food and water, combs, hats, socks, gloves and emergency blankets.
“I could honestly say that it gives you a warm feeling in your heart. You know that someone else that doesn’t have the things that you have – that you’re giving them a chance to have a better and more improved life and giving them the start that they need,” senior Kelsey Humbert said as she helped unload the packs. “We’re giving people little bags of hope is what it really is, instead of just supplies.”
As recently as last week, funding issues had forced student organizer Nathaniel Guzzo and his team to scale back the project from its original goal of 60 backpacks to around 20.
A late fundraising push and some big help from Genentech, which had already come through with the towels and emergency blankets, helped the group come up with another $2,500 in two days, said leadership teacher Jared Ropelato.
That influx of funding meant the students could not only exceed the original goal, but double it to 120 backpacks by the end of the school year.
Guzzo, who was at school late Thursday filling packs, was working furiously to meet his deadline.
“I haven’t had enough time to be as appreciative as I can,” he said.
Still, the sudden expansion of the project was exciting.
“It makes me absolutely ecstatic,” Guzzo said as he and his fellow students loaded the backpacks into Ropelato’s truck for delivery.
While the students unloaded the packs at the church, the beneficiaries of the project began to gather in anticipation of the meal.
“It’s awesome. One thing I think is cool is that we do a lot of projects, some of them successful, some of them not successful,” said senior Acarey Rosa. “This one, I can honestly say, in my four years at Wood, this is one of the coolest things that we’ve participated in or done.”
She lauded Guzzo for leading the project.
“Nate – he just took it full on and to see it come together,” Rosa said. ”I am so proud of him and what they’re doing.”
Seeing the backpacks going to the people who need them was an eye-opening experience.
“It makes me want to continue. We have a lot of money back there and we’re going to keep doing it,” Rosa said. “We just talked to two guys, and they were like, ‘Aw, this is so awesome. Thank you guys so much. You guys are setting poverty free.’ ”
As the students continued to work, one man who left the church with his meal in one hand and pack slung over his shoulder shouted, “The backpacks were epic!”
The generosity also struck church volunteers.
“Where do you even start? A lot of these people don’t have anything. They don’t even have a blanket at night,” said Bill Pierce, as he prepared to serve the meal. “To do what they’re doing here, to have a backpack with a toothbrush and whatever else is in there, to me and you that doesn’t mean that much, but to these guys, that’s the world.”
For the students, it was just as fulfilling.
“It’s just how things work. We try and take care of each other,” said senior Eslinda Garcia.
It also made them want to do more.
“It kind of makes me feel like I’m almost capable of more,” said senior Paige Peck. “It gave me some motivation for the rest of the year.”
Guzzo and Ropelato said the plan is for another backpack distribution later in the school year.
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.