Matawan Rotary donates backpacks and dictionaries to students

The Rotary Club began a new project this year to ensure that no child would go back to school without a backpack or proper supplies for class.

The organization collected 70 backpacks, hundreds of school supplies and more than 600 dictionaries for students within the Matawan-Aberdeen School District.

The backpack project, led by Rotary Club member Nancy Haddock, began in August and came together just in time for the new school year.

The 70 backpacks were stuffed with supplies and were delivered to K-12 schools within the district on Sept. 1.

`There are a lot of needy kids,` Haddock said. `With the economic times, parents are having difficulty making ends meet and a lot of them are out of work. Children, especially young children, have a problem fitting in, so when something is drastically different, like not having the normal supplies for school, they kind of stand out.`

The Rotary was recognized by the Matawan-Aberdeen Board of Education on Sept. 21 for its charitable efforts.

`It`s a significant gesture, but as a symbol, it is much more than that,` said Charles Kenny, Board of Education president. `As a parent, [I know] a backpack is very important to a student.`

Haddock mentioned that lacking the financial means for school supplies might contribute to a student`s poor performance in class or low self-esteem.

`They might not ask questions and may just shy away,` she said.

Haddock reached out to local businesses, including Target, Kohl`s of Hazlet and Staples of Hazlet, to donate supplies for the backpacks.

`This is the first year we have done it, and the whole club is behind it 100 percent,` Haddock said. `All donations are from the club and came out of pocket from the members. The members also did the shopping for the supplies.`

Various banks such as Columbia Bank, Provident Bank and Sovereign Bank donated money for not only the backpacks but also for calculators, notebooks, pens, pencils, rulers and other school supplies.

`A lot of our Rotary members are managers at the different banks,` she said. `We are giving back to the community and to an area of need, and that is what the Rotary does. It`s our foundation.`

Haddock explained that the backpacks were given out based on recommendations from parents and faculty.

`They [the backpacks] were given to the nurses in the schools because the nurses are the ones who can identify where the need is,` she said. `Then the nurses gave it to the parents or the guardians to give to the children, as opposed to giving it directly to the children. It goes to the parents and then in turns it goes to the children.`

The Matawan Rotary Club also provided dictionaries to third-grade students and thesauruses to sixth-grade students in the Matawan-Aberdeen School District on Sept. 25.

`We are committed to providing these books to the children to help instill enthusiasm for learning,` said Linda Pressler, Rotary Club member and chair of the Dictionary Committee. `This way, the students have their own books. They are not the school`s books. They can bring them home and have them forever.`

Volunteers from the club distributed the books and visited each third-grade class to discuss how to use the dictionary.

When the club first started the dictionary project, 350 dictionaries were distributed and no thesauruses were handed out. In 2009, more than 600 dictionaries and thesauruses will be in the hands of elementary and middle school students.

`It`s not necessarily need on this one,` Pressler said. `It`s more about giving back to the kids and teaching them the importance of learning. Local organizations all over the country are doing the same thing.`

This year, the books were donated by the Matawan Rotary Club in memory of former Rotarians Jack and Virginia Cushman.

The Matawan Rotary Club was chartered in 1945 and currently has 25 members. The club meets every Thursday at the Buttonwood Manor on Route 34 in Matawan. For more information, visit

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