'Summer of Dreams' program fills backpacks for needy families

'A Gift for Teaching,' city of Orlando, Fifth Third Bank team up

ORLANDO, Fla. – An assembly line of volunteers filled 600 backpacks with notebooks, pencils, and school supplies for homeless students participating in a summer program.

Mayor of Orlando Buddy Dyer said the community has come together on the issue of homelessness, first among veterans, and now the focus is on families and youth homelessness.  The Orlando Mayor teamed up with "A Gift For Teaching," and Fifth Third Bank to add to the total donation for 1,137 participants in the Summer of Dreams program.

"To have the paper and pencils that they use in a classroom makes them feel good about themselves on the first day of school," said Dyer.

The free 10-week Summer of Dreams Program helps homeless students when the structure of the school year lets out. Jane Thompson, president of A Gift For Teaching said when the program started 18 years ago they were helping 25,000 students, and now about 210,000 students qualify for free or discounted lunches.

"Their families can't afford that, and so they certainly can't afford the luxury of buying school supplies," said Thompson.

Damon Brown is in the Summer of Dreams program and said the event was about giving back.

"They're pushing us to start graduating now in the school system, so that's actually why they need a backpack to be ready and prepared," said Brown.

Last year A Gift For Teaching distributed over $10 million worth of school supplies. The program currently serves 338 public schools with free school supplies at their Orlando store and with their traveling mobile Pencil Boy Express free store.

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