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Philadelphia's Neediest Schoolchildren Getting Free Backpacks, School Supplies

By John McDevitt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Thanks to a giveaway today, nearly a thousand needy students in the Philadelphia school district who didn't have a backpack or basic supplies now have them.

On the loading dock of the building where the School District of Philadelphia is headquartered, staff members from various schools were loading up vehicles with bookbags and other essential supplies to bring back to  the most needy students at their schools.

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(Al Quarles. Credit: John McDevitt)

"We identify every year about 4,600 to 5,000 homeless students in the City of Philadelphia that are in school," says Al Quarles (right), the school district's coordinator of homeless and emergency services.   "And then you also have a lot of children who are just living in tough times right now, with the economy and everything else, so this is definitely a serious issue.  So anything we can do to help that is a definite blessing to the students."

Quarles says the effort is a partnership among the  school district,  the Feed the Children organization, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Ludy Soderman is the school district's director of the multilingual family support office.  She says the supplies will help a number of the immigrant families she encounters.

"(It) will allow me to go into the neighborhood  and distribute this to the families, and then see the miracle of relief in the face because someone doesn't have to worry about, 'How am I  going to get this  for my family?' as they struggle to settle in this new country.   It is awesome and I am truly very, very thankful," she said today.

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