By Hadas Kuznits


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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Thousands of area children will be getting desperately needed school supplies to start the school year right, thanks to the 2012 Cradles to Crayons and United Way “Backpack-a-Thon” that got underway today at Lincoln Financial Field, in South Philadelphia.

“There are about 500 people here who will stuff 20,000 backpacks,” said Jill Michal (right), president and CEO of the United Way of Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.  “We’ve got composition books, folders, rulers, pencil, paper, erasers — all the important tools that kids need to start off the school year right.”

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After they are packed, she explains, homeless shelters and other social service agencies will pick up the backpacks for distribution to needy children.

(Kuznits:)  “Are there a lot of kids in the Philadelphia School District who live in homeless shelters?”

(Michal:)  “There are an incredible amount of kids — far too many — that live below the poverty line.  One in five children live in poverty in the Greater Philadelphia area, and this is really an effort to help them at least start school on a level playing field.”

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