Volunteers from the Women of Steel in Sparwood gather to stuff backpacks full of school supplies for students and the upcoming school year.

Women of Steel packs school supplies for local students

Women of Steel's Backpack Campaign provides local students with school supplies.

Volunteers from United Steel Workers Local 9346 Women of Steel gathered at the Sparwood Union Hall on the afternoon of Aug. 26, getting ready to go back to school. They packed backpacks full of school supplies to give to students in need of supplies for the upcoming school year.

This if the fourth year that the Women of Steel have operated their Backpack Campaign, raising all the funds needed to buy the school supplies and distribute them to the students. This year, the campaign raised over $7000 from May through to July, which was a combination of fundraising and donations from local businesses and individual donors.

Sarah Thompson and Jen Schlender, who are co-chairs of the Women of Steel and head the campaign, received numbers of potential students in need from the local schools, the Sparwood Food Bank, and the Fernie Women’s Centre, allowing for them to know roughly how many supplies are needed.

With the money raised, the Women of Steel bought nearly all the supplies any student could need through the school year. The volunteers packed 72 backpacks full with supplies and made bulk donations to school, allowing the school to give out supplies to students that are in need throughout the school year. The packs are distributed to nearly every school in the Elk Valley and Crowsnest Pass, including all the schools in Fernie, Sparwood, and Jaffray and all but one school in Elkford.

“Our goal of the program is to have all kids equal so that they can have the confidence to thrive and go to school,” said Sarah Thompson, co-chair of the Women of Steel.

The campaigned raised over $3000 by feeding the workers at the Elkview mine, with a barbeque set up at the bus station.

“We were feeding the guys going to night shift and coming off day shift at Elkview,” said Thompson. According to her, the mine workers welcomed the barbeque, and were happy to support the campaign. The Elk Valley Thrift Shop donated $1000, and two sister union locals donated $500 each. The campaign received community support from the Sparwood Overwaitea with food discounts and the Elkview mine with both a donation and permitting the barbeque set up at the bus station.