The United Way of Bay County is helping kids put together first-day-of-school outfits

Nicole Luczak’s back-to-school shopping list includes 1,000 pairs of pants, 2,000 shirts, plus thousands of undergarments, socks, shoes, and more.

No, Luczak is not a reality TV star with a large family. She’s the CEO of the United Way of Bay County, which runs the Helen Wirt Lee Back 2 School Clothing/Backpack Program

The program, created by a partnership between the United Way of Bay County and the Youth Advisory Council of the Bay Area Community Foundation, provides clothing, backpacks, and school supplies to children who meet income guidelines.
Applications for Back 2 School are due Fri., July 14.

The Helen Wirt Lee Back 2 School Clothing/Backpack Program gives kids the clothing and supplies they need to start the academic year on the right foot.Luczak says she is publicizing the program aggressively now since many people don’t start thinking about back-to-school clothing and supplies until after July. But volunteer shoppers need time to gather what’s needed for each child. That means registration has to take place in July in order to get clothing into the kids closets before the first day of school.

Right now, a little more than 700 kids are registered for the program, says Michaela Garcia, the United Way’s Marketing, Communications & Events Manager. Last year, the program served 1,065 children in pre-school through 12th grades.

Luczak says she’s also still seeking donors for the program. Sponsoring a single child is $75. For that amount, volunteer shoppers can buy one long-sleeve and one short-sleeve shirt, pants, undergarments, socks, and shoes for one child. If the child needs a uniform, the volunteers make sure the clothes fit the requirements.
'I just picture the kids who don’t have the stuff to start school. They don’t feel confident or comfortable. It’s really important for success.'
- Nicole Luczak, United Way of Bay County
Donations are accepted in any amount, but many people chose to sponsor an individual child, Luczak says.

The Youth Advisory Council also fills backpacks with school supplies for the kids in the program. Bayshire Beauty Academy gives each child a free back-to-school haircut.

All that makes a big difference in starting the school year on a positive note.

“I just picture the kids who don’t have the stuff to start school,” Luczak says. “They don’t feel confident or comfortable. It’s really important for success.”

Back-to-school shopping can create a financial strain for many families, especially those in the ALICE population (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) or foster care.

Click here to learn more about the need in Bay County.

The program also alleviates the burden on teachers who often dip into personal bank accounts to get kids what they need.

“We have schools calling because kids don’t come to school because they don’t have shoes,” Luczak says.

The Wirt Family Foundation is the major donor, covering about half the cost. “The rest is individual donors and companies sponsoring kids,” Luczak says.

If you have questions about the program, call (989) 893-7508

Click here to apply for the program.
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Read more articles by Kathy Roberts.

Kathy Roberts, a graduate of Central Michigan University, moved to Bay City in 1987 to start a career in the newspaper industry. She was a reporter and editor at the Bay City Times for 15 years before leaving to work at the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Covenant HealthCare, and Ohno Design. In 2019, she returned to her storytelling roots as the Managing Editor of Route Bay City. When she’s not editing or writing stories, you can find her reading books, knitting, or visiting the bars of Bay County. You can reach Kathy at