YAC members make sure students start the school year strong

With his high school graduation just a month ago, Brandon Hofmeister is already thinking about what school supplies kids and teens will need next fall.

Hofmeister, who graduated from Garber High School in May and is headed to the University of Michigan in the fall, says he discovered a passion for philanthropy and education when he was a sixth-grade student.

He joined the Bay Area Community Foundation Youth Advisory Committee as a sixth grader. Through that, he began volunteering for the United Way of Bay County’s 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 Committee 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 Mon., July 15.

“One of the things YAC talked about wanting to do was really to get into education and provide some of those basic needs for students to make sure they have all the resources on the first day to show up and succeed,” he remembers.

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.

As Hofmeister helped distribute the items to kids that first year, he developed an appreciation for his good fortune.

“I think one of the reasons it really touched a lot of us is the kids were so excited,” he remembers. “They were so excited to have these new supplies. I think it was something I had taken for granted, just being able to have supplies for school.”

As Hofmeister moved through middle school and high school, he became more involved in YAC and the back-to-school program.

In the early days of his involvement, YAC provided grants to help the United Way of Bay County buy school supplies for the back-to-school program.

For the last several years, though, YAC has been more hands-on, buying the backpacks and school supplies themselves. Volunteers from YAC stuff the backpacks and distribute them.

The process takes months.

“We start in May or June finding the backpacks and what school supplies we want to stuff them with,” Hofmeister says.

Fundraisers also take place in the spring.

In mid-summer, they order backpacks in various sizes and styles for the different grades. 

“We do one week in August when we shop,” he says. “We’ll go to Meijer and get five different carts and just fill them with school supplies. We’ll do that a couple times. We spend that week stuffing over 100 backpacks as well.”

Hofmeister doesn’t expect his involvement in helping kids through school to end anytime soon.

“I’ve been really passionate about philanthropy since I joined (YAC) back in sixth grade,” he says. “I hope to continue anyway that I can help, giving my time and resources for philanthropy.”

If you have questions about the Helen Wirt Lee Back 2 School Clothing/Backpack program, call the United Way at (989) 893-7508. Click here to access the application online.
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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 editor@RouteBayCity.com