DARIEN — With school starting in a few weeks, Darien Human Services’ annual Back-to-School Supplies Drive has officially started.

“Last year, we had about 130 children,” Human Services Director Alexandra Ramsteck said.

The number of children assisted this year looks to remain the same, she said. The program has been running for more than 10 years and is for Darien residents only. The program is also for kids ranging from kindergarteners to seniors in high school.

“We provide each child with a new backpack and a Kohl’s gift card,” Ramsteck said. “So they can get shoes, clothes or whatever they might need.”

Kids are also given any school supplies they may need. The Department of Human Services collects items for the drive based on supplies listed on schools’ websites. The program is available free of charge to eligible Darien children.

“Some of these are families we’ve worked with throughout the year,” Ramsteck said. “So they’re already on our radar.”

Families that need help purchasing supplies but are unsure if they are eligible can contact the Department of Human Services. Human Services also works closely with schools throughout the year to find families that are eligible.

“Sometimes they refer families to us,” Ramsteck said.

Donations for the school drive are received from members of the community as well as local schools, Ramsteck said. Tokeneke Elementary school donated supplies again this year, and Ox Ridge Elementary and Hindley Elementary school both donated for the first time this year.

At the end of the school year, the three schools allow kids to order school supplies prepackaged for the fall. This year, all three offered an option to donate to the Back-to-School program.

“We rely heavily on donations,” Ramsteck said. “Luckily our community is very generous so we get a lot of donations.”

Usually the program is supplied through gifts and donations, but the department also has program money if necessary to purchase supplies.

This year, the Darien Sports Shop also donated clothes for the program. Children will be able to pick out new clothes in addition to the supplies for their classrooms.

Gina Zangrillo, president of the Darien Sports Shop, said she learned how much Darien’s Human Services does for local families through a friend.

“Back-to-school time is a big initiative for them as they help many kids get the supplies they need,” Zangrillo said. “We wanted to contribute by giving kids — big and small — some brand new clothing so they can start school feeling confident and ready to take on the year.”

The Back-to-School program will accept donations until the first day of school (Aug. 30), and the program will run until Aug. 31.

“Sometimes we get a couple of people who come in last minute,” Ramsteck said. “Where always available to grab stuff from our supplies if necessary.”


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