New local initiative provides backpacks for children, teens facing difficult family situations

Published on Tuesday, 16 November 2021 09:43
Written by Erica Drzewiecki


An officer of the American Legion is calling upon people to help children who are pulled away from broken homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Director of the American Legion of Connecticut’s Female Veterans Outreach Committee and U.S. Army veteran Mary Harris has launched a new initiative she calls Backpacks for Hope. The program, which is just starting to collect donations, will provide Connecticut law enforcement agencies across the state with backpacks for children and teens facing difficult family situations.

“We have 145 American Legion Posts within the state and I’m hoping other towns will pick up on this and offer donations so we can help out the local police departments,” Harris said over the phone Monday.

She lives in Naugatuck and is a member of the Terryville American Legion, overseeing six districts across Litchfield County. However, Harris has friends who live in the New Britain and Newington area and they’re helping to spread the word around this region.

“With covid a lot of kids are having a difficult time with schooling and parents don’t really know how to cope with kids being home,” Harris said. “A lot of children have been involved with domestic violence issues. Maybe Dad and Mom get arrested and they are taken by DCF for safe-keeping while parents can get their stuff resolved. A lot of times these children are pulled out of their homes and they have nothing with them. I’m hoping these backpacks provide police with something to give these children for comfort. I would love to get backpacks to every police station across the state but I have to start small first.”

Local businesses are collecting donations of kid-friendly supplies like small toys, stuffed animals and books.

The Newington Chamber of Commerce put out a flyer to its members and several have stepped up. Drop-off locations for donations include Karma’s Closet, 3153 Berlin Tpke., from Weds.-Sun.; the Newington GEICO, 2434 Berlin Tpke. Mon.Sat.; and the American Legion, May-Davis-Stotzer Post #117, Weds. 9 a.m.-2 p.m., 555 Willard Ave. in Newington.

Donations requested include age-appropriate toiletries, snacks, crayons, coloring books, markers, soft blankets, stuffed animals, small toys for girls and boys as well as juice boxes.

Contact Mary Harris with any questions, at 203-490-9299 or

Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at

Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain, Newington on Tuesday, 16 November 2021 09:43. Updated: Tuesday, 16 November 2021 09:46.