CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — In partnership with Chesterfield County Public Schools, nonprofit ICNA Relief USA is distributing 500 backpacks with supplies at Manchester Middle School to local students to help them prepare for the upcoming academic year.

According to Midlothian High School teacher Somia Rashid, who volunteered at the Saturday event, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) has been participating in this event for several years. But in 2020, in-person distribution was paused because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year, we couldn’t do it,” she said. “But the year before that, we did it right here at Manchester Middle School, and we had a huge turnout. We got there at 8 a.m. and students were already lined up.”

Since then, ICNA Relief’s backpack distribution program in the greater Richmond area has grown. Rashid said that 500 backpacks are being given away in Chesterfield County, with another 500 set to be distributed in Henrico County on Aug. 7 at the Islamic Center of Henrico & Masjid Al-Falah.

“We supply both backpacks and school supplies,” Rashid said. “To succeed in school, these are the basic tools that every child needs.”

Volunteers at Saturday’s event could be seen wearing t-shirts that read “Education is Power.” As a teacher, Rashid said that education is the ultimate key to success in life, and giving away supplies to aid in that education is just the beginning.

“The feedback [from families] is great,” she said. “They’re happy. They are grateful for the support that the community offers them, and it makes us happy to see them, like the little kids, the way they are picking up their favorite colors — ‘I want a pink backpack,’ ‘I want a blue backpack’ — and this excitement, especially after a year and a half of what everyone went through with COVID-19 and stuff, it’s good to see them happy and get excited about being back in school.”

Filled with learning essentials such as pencils, notebooks, binders, folders and the like, the backpacks are supplied by ICNA with support from local residents.

“Most of the donations, they come from the local community,” Rashid said. “Our community has been very generous. They give us money, they send us supplies. This is all possible because of the involvement of the community.”