Students seeking backpack items for homeless

Huntington North High School students will collect donations to fill backpacks for the homeless Saturday morning, Nov. 4, at the school. Displaying some of the donations that are needed are (seated, from left) students Emma Bickel and Sara Kauffman; and (standing, from left) Shelley Septer, who founded Backpacks of Hope in honor of her late son; students Andrea Sands, Noah Proffitt and Cade MacAleese; HNHS teacher Michelle Santa; and student Merrill Ballinger.
Huntington North High School students will collect donations to fill backpacks for the homeless Saturday morning, Nov. 4, at the school. Displaying some of the donations that are needed are (seated, from left) students Emma Bickel and Sara Kauffman; and (standing, from left) Shelley Septer, who founded Backpacks of Hope in honor of her late son; students Andrea Sands, Noah Proffitt and Cade MacAleese; HNHS teacher Michelle Santa; and student Merrill Ballinger. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Huntington North High School students in the Viking New Tech program and Rotary Interact Service Club are asking the community to contribute items they can use to fill backpacks to be given to homeless residents of Huntington County and Fort Wayne.

The project is being done through Backpacks of Hope, founded in 2011 by Huntington resident Shelley Septer in honor of her late son, John “Zachery” Septer.

Students will be at Door 3 at the front of Huntington North High School on Saturday, Nov. 4, from 9 a.m. to noon to accept donations.

They are asking for new hats, gloves, socks, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, blankets, sham- poo, conditioner, razors, soap, body wash, foot powder, nonperishable food items, lotion, water, flashlights, hand and foot warmers and rain ponchos.
All donated items should be new.

“We want to give that pride of ownership,” Septer explains.

Monetary donations are also needed. Checks can be made out to Discipleship and Stewardship Network, with “Backpacks of Hope” written in the memo line, and mailed to 631 E. Tipton St., Huntington, IN 46750.

The students will sort and organize the donations.

“When we get these things filled, they are filled to the brim,” Septer says.

The filled backpacks will be given out at the New Life Community Meal Ministry in downtown Huntington, as well as at the Rescue Mission and VA Northern Indiana in Fort Wayne. Several Fort Wayne businesses, including Kelley Chevrolet and Heartland Insurance, also help collect donations.

This is the sixth year for the project, Septer says. Forty-five backpacks were given out the first year. That number has grown, with 1,000 backpacks given out last year.

Backpacks of Hope was organized by Septer to serve as a legacy for her son, who died in 2011. It wasn’t until after his death that his family realized the extent of his connection with the homeless community in Fort Wayne. At his funeral, hundreds of people told the family about the difference Zachery had made in their lives.

“Zachery went out and talked to the homeless and spent time with them,” Septer says.

Backpacks of Hope is a way to continue that mission, she says.