Haverhill Schools Welcome Backpacks, Supplies and Personal Protective Equipment from Drive

From left, back, West Congregational Church Youth Pastor Steve Simmons, Pastor to Children and Families Todd Becker, Youth Group Leader Gerry Roldan, Rep. Andy X. Vargas, Assistant Superintendent Michael Pfifferling and School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti. Front, from left, are volunteers Caroline LeBlanc from Unicare and Loren Stevens, dean at the Upper School of Bradford Christian Academy; and Superintendent Margaret Marotta. (WHAV News photograph.)

With more children preparing to return to school for in-person classes, Haverhill Public Schools welcomed donations Wednesday of backpacks with hard-to-find, kid-sized personal protective equipment.

West Congregational Church Youth Pastor Steve Simmons and Youth Group Leader Gerry Roldan, aided by state Rep. Andy X. Vargas and School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti and others, turned over boxes and boxes of supplies during an outdoor ceremony.

More than 300 students—the greatest need in the four years the church has conducted the drive—are being helped by the donation. Simmons said donors stepped up despite the impacts caused by this year’s virus outbreak.

“It really is remarkable to see the amount of generosity and the donations that have been coming in spite of all of that,” he said.

Roldan, who is credited with being West Congregational’s major force behind the drive, noted the pandemic threatened the effort.

“Because of our faith, we prayed about it, we connected with our leaders and we decided back on Aug. 1 that we’re going to have a backpack drive,” Roldan said.

Vargas arrived with binders for children and what turned out to be some relatively scarce items.

“We also had masks. We had gloves because we know that’s important PPE not only for the teachers, but also for students. Some students don’t have masks so we brought some children’s masks as well, which apparently are a hot commodity because of the size that they are,” he explained.

At a ceremony outside of the law offices of Sheehan, Schiavoni, Jutras and Magliocchetti, Superintendent Margaret Marotta and Assistant Superintendent Michael Pfifferling accepted the donations. Marotta said the backpacks and supplies are vital.

“Now, more than ever, we just have so many families that are struggling to make ends meet, to figure out what school looks like, to gather supplies at home for their children, and these are really welcome,” she said.

Magliocchetti said he made donations when the effort launched four years ago, but he has become more involved in assessing needs and working with the administration to make sure the backpacks, supplies and personal protective equipment get to the students that need it the most.

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