Architecture firm Perkins&Will hosted its third annual Backpack Bash in Clayton County last month, distributing over $38,000 worth of backpacks and school supplies to more than 1,100 students in the district. Photo courtesy of Perkins&Will 

Representatives from Perkins&Will architecture firm hosted a backpack giveaway in Clayton County late last month, helping students and their families prepare for the 2023-24 academic year.

As part of the company’s third Backpack Bash, organizers handed over $38,000 worth of bookbags and school supplies to more than 1,100 students attending Northcutt Elementary School and West Clayton Elementary School. This year’s giveaway was the firm’s largest and most successful to date, with total funds raised more than doubling those of the inaugural giveaway hosted in 2021.

Erika Kane, architect and senior designer at Perkins&Will and co-organizer of the event, said that the giveaway started as an extension of the company’s “JEDI” initiative, a program dedicated to creating diverse and equitable communities outside of the workplace. She and her co-leader, Perkins&Will architect Maria Montgomery, developed the annual Backpack Bash as a way to connect with metro Atlanta students and families and offer financial assistance with the help of their donors and volunteers.

“This Backpack Bash is really just to connect and give back to the community,” Kane said. “We do a lot of K-12 work, and so we have a lot of connections with the local school communities…”

The firm aims to help a different metro Atlanta county each year and selected two Clayton County schools as beneficiaries for this year’s giveaway based on their Title 1 status, student body size and pre-determined student need.

In addition to the supply giveaway, Perkins&Will set up a career booth on site for the first time this year, giving attending students a glimpse of careers in architecture and other related fields after graduation. Kane said that the company also hosts career days at local schools to introduce kids to career options in these disciplines that would allow them to make use of their innate creativity.

“A lot of kids are creative, but they don’t really realize all the different things you can do with that creative connection and impulse,” Kane said. “You can be an architect, you can be an engineer, you could go into industrial design, and so it’s just fun to share that, as well.”

With the increases in funding and attention from donors and the public, the Backpack Bash is only growing more impactful with time. Kane said that she and Montgomery plan to continue working with local leaders in education to bring the giveaway to new school districts each year. Despite the time and dedication needed to successfully host an event of this magnitude, Kane said the smiles and positive reactions from the students on the day of the giveaway makes all of the planning and commitment worthwhile.

“It’s really rewarding to see how much it’s grown, especially since last year,” Kane said. “I think all the individuals that attend the event and spend the day there handing out supplies, they really want to connect with us and do this every year because they see what an amazing impact it is. So, it just feels really good to see something that, I think, is really beneficial to the community.”