Granville Then & Now – Backpack project reaches 300 students

By Erik Pekar, Town Historian

The 16th annual Backpack Project was held Aug. 13 at the Granville Baptist Church at 23 Quaker Street in the Village of Granville. Students, all accompanied by a parent, attended and left with a free backpack full of their necessary school supplies.

The project is not a one-day affair by any means. “It takes a good amount of time,” said Ann Schinski, founder and leader of the Backpack Project. “We shop all year for deals that we can find.” Planning for one year’s event starts not long after the previous year’s event.

This year’s event at the Granville Baptist Church involved hauling of supplies into the church and organizing took three days, and started Tuesday night. “We had so much stuff, and a smaller venue to use … a little close quarters, but we worked it out,” said Schinski. “We had a team of people helping us . . . sorting it out, getting it [sorted] by grade, year, category.”

The day of the Backpack Project was busy. Cars were lined up and down Quaker Street; one driving by unaware of the project could have thought there was a concert in Veterans Memorial Park. “In the first hour, we pushed about 135 people through, and it stayed busy right up until the time, 9 to 12,” said Schinski. “We had a few stragglers at the end.” Some people have called afterwards, and backpacks have been delivered. All in all, close to 300 backpacks were given out thanks to the Backpack Project, which is usually the goal.

There were several volunteers who helped move and arrange items to prepare for the event, and several more who helped on the day of the project. “We had a lot of volunteers, many volunteers,” said Schinski. “It’s good that people want to help.”

The inspiration for the Backpack Project came from hearing about the costs of school supplies. “One of my co-workers told me how much it cost to get a backpack and fill it. I said, ‘my gosh, how can you do that for your two children on a limited budget?’ One thing led to another,” said Schinski. “I was in church one day . . . the pastor said something about thinking of doing something for your community, it just seemed to come together.”

Schinski decided to dedicate the Backpack Project in memory of her husband, Steve Schinski, who was a generous person. The event started in 2007. “We had enough for 45 backpacks, and we had gently used clothing, and brand new socks and underwear. 45 people got to have backpacks, but we turned people away, that was really disheartening,” said Schinski. To remedy this, she began asking for donations to the project. “We just started asking for donations,” said Schinski, “and they started coming in. We’ve never gone without since . . . [since then] not one person’s been turned away.” The donations come from many area people and businesses.

Schinski is thankful for the support given to the Backpack Project by the Granville community. “I’m grateful beyond . . . being able to comprehend, [for] how great this town has been to the backpack project,” said Schinski. “I’m really proud of this community.”

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More paving projects are happening in the vicinity. The section of Route 22A in Vermont between the state line and Fair Haven was paved in early August. The pavement markings were applied in mid-August. This development will be received warmly by those in the area who travel on that road. Route 22A was also repaved from the vicinity of Shaw’s in Fair Haven north to Route 73 in Orwell; a distance of about 15 miles. The narrow section of Route 22A, north the hill with climbing lane in West Haven, has been notorious for years, being particularly prone to car accidents and tractor trailer accidents. Vermont has major plans for this part of Route 22A, intending to widen the rest of the narrow part from West Haven into Benson. This project, which would not see construction until 2026 or later, would be a great start to improving a highway which has been an “accident alley” for many years.

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The International Casual Furnishings Association, the trade association for manufacturers of casual outdoor furniture, held its annual Awards Gala on July 20, at Navy Pier in Chicago. Telescope Casual Furniture, of Granville, won the Manufacturer of the Year Award for 2021; it was one of five finalists for the award. According to the ICFA’s description of the award, the companies were “judged upon quality of manufactured goods, design, merchandising, customer service, ethics/trade relations and communications.”

There was a second award associated with Telescope that was presented at the gala. Sara Brown received the Unsung Hero Award; the ICFA describes the purpose of this award as “(paying) tribute (to) the manufacturers’ employees who serve as company liaisons with dealers and sales representatives.” Congratulations to Telescope Casual Furniture, and all its employees who contributed to its success, and the eligibility and receiving of the awards.

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Recently we were shown a column in another paper with a section that will be of interest to Granville people. The column in question, “Random Thoughts” by Michael Levy, is in the June 16 issue of the Greenwich Journal-Press. Levy named a few days’ worth of places to go in Washington County for a “staycation” and started off the itinerary with Granville.

Levy began with the Slate Valley Museum, and its showing of the history of the local slate industry; the museum was closed as of the column’s press time and didn’t reopen until July. He had some appreciative comments on the Pember Museum, calling it a “community treasure” and alluded to the bear, a popular backdrop for photos. He also mentioned that the museum was closed for many years, and that kids went up anyway to see the community’s “gift from Franklin Pember.” He also named the Pember Nature Preserve in Hebron and its trails.

In the business department, Levy had one in mind: “For lunch, I plan to go to Scarlotta’s Car Hop. … Yes, it was called MacDaddy’s in recent times, but ownership is somehow back in the family and the place is reportedly again named Scarlotta’s Car Hop. I hope that they will have some of the old classics like ‘Grandma Betty’s Meat Sauce’ and what I recall were called ‘buffalo chips.’ It was truly a noteworthy place back when Jimmy and Betty were running things and maybe it will be again.”

We thank Levy for his kind comments on the Granville area. Hopefully he was able to come up to Granville over the summer. If he hasn’t yet, he will find that his hopes and expectations won’t be let down. There are many good places or businesses that call Granville, or the Granville area, home. The fact that the three Granville places named above, as well as several others, are known destinations for people beyond the towns adjacent to Granville is a good thing. It shows more people in the vicinity are aware of Granville, and more will frequent Granville’s museums, and shop and eat at Granville businesses.