WARREN - With the help of Huntington Bank, the area United Ways stuffed a bus full of backpacks that will be distributed to children in Mahoning, Trumbull, Mercer and Lawrence counties.
Huntington Bank Regional President Frank Hierro said Huntington Bank is giving away 15,000 backpacks across its 11 markets. Locally, more than 1,500 will be given away.
"It's great to see the kids, and I hope that we are building them some excitement for back to school so they get off to a great start and do well scholastically," Hierro said.
"Huntington recognizes that difficult times continue for many families needing to supply their children with the supplies to begin the school year. Huntington believes in doing the right thing by collaborating with our partners for this special initiative," Hierro said.
Representatives of United Ways from Trumbull, Mahoning, Lawrence and Mercer counties gathered this week at Huntington Bank in Warren to get their backpacks.
Ginny Pasha, president of the Trumbull County United Way, said she was able to get backpacks for children at programs at the local YMCA and YWCA.
"What Huntington Bank has done is greatly appreciated," she said.
"We found out that a lot of kids go back to school and don't have these supplies needed to get off to a good start. So these backpacks will certainly help," said Bob Hannon, director of the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.
Hierro said for the past eight years, Huntington has been tracking the cost of sending children to grades K-12 with its annual Backpack Index.
George Mokrzan, director of economics for Huntington Bank said for the 2014-15 school year, the cost has jumped as much as 20 percent, one of the largest year-over-year increases in the eight-year history of the Annual Huntington Backpack Index, he said.
"With the slow growth in wages, it is difficult for many families to meet the rising costs of sending children to school. We recommend that parents begin to take advantage of sales for classroom supplies and activities from now until September in order to save money," Mokrzan said.
According to the Huntington Backpack Index, parents can expect to pay $642 for elementary school children, an 11 percent increase compared to 2013; $918 for middle school children, a 20 percent jump compared to 2013; and $1,284 for high school students, a 5 percent increase compared to 2013