Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

October 12, 2004 > Packs of Love Gives Packs of Need

Packs of Love Gives Packs of Need

by Arathi Satish

Winnie Kao's backpacks are well known. They are not ordinary backpacks. They are packs of love gifted by Winnie for the past three years. Winnie runs the Packs of Love program and has delivered over 500 backpacks to needy kids, filled with necessary school items.

Winnie Kao's father, who grew up in Taiwan, had organized a street fair for an orphanage in Taiwan and was instrumental in influencing Winnie's decision to donate backpacks. Her father's lecture about giving away the school supplies that cluttered her room caught gave her an idea. Since the spring of 2002, she has spent many hours driving with her father to stores all over town, meeting managers and haggling over prices of school supplies to include in her backpacks.

Using her own money she has saved over the years from Chinese New Year, Winnie spends it all on her backpack project. Each year, she tries to reach a set goal, and this year she was approached the Target Stores and they donated $500.

Winnie started Packs of Love at during the summer at the end of her sophomore year of high school. She donated 65 backpacks filled with school supplies to the Gilroy Family Resource Center.

A freshman this year, Winnie is planning to attend UC Berkeley and major in business. She is the director of community service in the ASUC (student body government at Cal) in the office of the executive vice president. She the only freshmen director in the office, and feels that her experience in the area of community service has helped her gain that position. "It's inspiring to work with so many bright, talented, and motivated people. It's definitely been the best part of Berkeley so far," said Winnie.

She hopes to continue Packs of Love Charity for as long as she can. "Hopefully, the students here will be receptive to the program and offer new possibilities for its future," said Winnie. Funding may be an obstacle and Winnie feels that if she can create an interest with the students at UC Berkeley, her Packs of Love could continue to help even more underprivileged, abused, and foster care children.

"I try to find children who need the backpacks the most," said Winnie. She has donated her packs to cities around the Bay Area as well as to the Alameda County Social Services.

Even though Winnie keeps very busy, she always finds time for her Packs of Love project. "If I didn't love doing this so much, every step of the way would be ten times harder. There are so many things that need to be taken care of, and it's hard when I have to spread myself so thin in order to get things done," said Winnie. She has learned to be flexible and to think critically during the many times she has had to find alternate paths when things didn't work out as planned.

But Winnie feels that all of her hard work pays off. Though she never meets the children who receive her backpacks due to confidentiality issues, the case workers and social workers who pass the backpacks on do show their appreciation. "It's definitely a great feeling to think that I'm making a difference in a child's school career, and hopefully life in general. If they feel even a little bit more positively about going to school, then everything is worth it" said Winnie.

Packs of Love relies upon donations from charitable individuals and local businesses. Donations of any amount are needed and appreciated. If you are interested in donating to Packs of Love you can send your checks to:

Winnie Kao/Packs of Love
PO Box 3026
Fremont, CA 94539

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