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Catholic Charities distributes more than 500 backpacks this year

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For many families, sending their children back to school means more expenses that might take away from the food budget or other necessities.

Catholic Charities Christ House in Alexandria and Migration and Refugee Services in Arlington, Fredericksburg and Manassas have distributed more than 500 backpacks and school supplies to students who need a little help getting ready for the school year. 


Bishop Michael F. Burbidge visited the fourth annual Christ House backpack distribution Aug. 23. He opened the morning with a prayer for students and then presented each student with a new backpack. Students also received a $20 gift certificate from Rack Room Shoes to purchase a new pair of shoes for school.

Eighty-four families were assisted, with 200 children receiving backpacks. More than 100 lunch boxes were given to pre-K through fifth-graders.

The supplies were donated by Christ House volunteers, Ladies of Virginia, Decipher Technology Studios, Catholic Daughters and Junior Daughters, and St. Vincent de Paul Society of the Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria.

The families are clients of the Catholic Charities Emergency Assistance, St. Lucy Programs, and friends of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.



For more than 10 years, Migration and Refugee Services has distributed more and more backpacks annually, with St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax and Church of the Nativity in Burke donating many.

MRS staff also check in with their clients to see if there are any additional services they need, including employment and health, according to Rebecca Boak, community engagement specialist. “We also ask students to bring in their report cards from the previous school year so that we can identify students who may need additional assistance,” she said.

To receive a backpack, students must be clients of Catholic Charities MRS and must be enrolled in the Virginia Refugee Student Achievement Program (VRSAP) for students ages 5-18 who have been in the United States for less than five years.

“Many of our students are from Afghanistan, having entered the United States on Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs),” said Boak. “SIV holders are granted permanent residence because they or their family members worked with the U.S. government in Afghanistan.”

Imram Gill brought his two daughters and son to pick up backpacks at Christ House. “Whenever we need any kind of help, Christ House is always here,” he said. “It’s not just the backpacks but whenever we are in trouble. These people are like family, like angels.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019