By Guest Blogger Chelsea Cullen, Communications Director, YMCA of Northwest North Carolina

Many parents will start back-to-school shopping in just a few short weeks – new outfits, school supplies – and the ultimate sign that school is starting again: a brand new backpack.

More than half of the students in Forsyth County enrolled in free or reduced lunch in the 2010-2011 school year. For those classmates, their families may not be able to purchase all the appropriate school supplies, new book bags, and classroom supplies needed each school year.

But you can help! Ensure every student starts the school year ready to learn by donating a new backpack and school supplies at local YMCA branches. Now through August 15, potential members will receive a $19 joining fee when they donate a new backpack. The Y works with local schools and other nonprofits to deliver all donated backpacks and school supplies to students in need.

The special joining fee with a donation, a savings of up to $80 depending on the type of membership, is available only through August 15. Current YMCA members can refer a friend a receive $25 off their next month’s dues. Donated backpacks must be new and never used.

The Y brings friends and neighbors together over shared interests in developing the potential of kids, improving individual health and well-being, and giving back and supporting our community. Membership at the Y provides access to comprehensive wellness and aquatics facilities, group exercise classes, savings on programs such as Boot Camps, Summer Camp, Youth and Adult Sports, Swim Lessons and much more. The YMCA of Northwest North Carolina offers financial assistance and never turns anyone away due to the inability to pay.

Community partners for the annual YMCA Backpack Campaign include Forsyth County Department of Social Services, Davie County Schools, King Outreach Ministry, Communities in Schools in Wilkes County, Alexander County Schools, Iredell-Statesville School System, the LaDeara Crest and The Ledges communities, as well as West Yadkin, Speas, Brunson, Rural Hall and Julian Gibson Elementary Schools.

* Sponsored by YMCA of Northwest North Carolina